PROUD TO BE A FILIPINO AMERICAN VOTER

KOMUNIDAD
September 25, 2016

PROUD TO BE A FILIPINO AMERICAN VOTER

by Arturo P. Garcia

After more than four general and numerous local elections in the United States, I can now say that I am proud to be a Filipino-American voter.

A glaring proof of our political power is when Philippine President Duterte’s PR man, Martin Andanar blamed FilAms for “plotting destabilization plot against Duterte”. It is a proof the growing political clout of FilAm voters in the Untied States.

It was a complement to appreciate the political clout of the Filipino American beyond America in the Philippines. But let us study how we build our political power through the years.

Unfamiliar with American politics, I plunged into darkness, yet emerged enlightened. At first, I wanted my unanswered questions to be resolved. And that is how the Filipino-American vote can make a difference in America.

Locally, I found my answer when Pacheco ran as a councilman in District 14. He appealed to Filipino veterans and the Filipino-American community in Eagle Rock, and he won by a narrow margin.I believed then that our seniors and veterans and our community vote made the difference, but I was still not sure. I thought it was just a gut feeling.

I can feel our community was imbibed with the brave spirit of defiance for the dictator in the elections of the snap elections of 1986 that Marcos tried to rig with the help of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile who did the cheating in Cagayan. That defiance resulted into the EDSA People’s Uprising in 1986 that overthrow the dictator Marcos and in 2001 the corrupt actor-president Erap Estrada.

Besides, the Americans introduced to the Philippines the concept of electoral democracy. In fact after the first elections in 1907, elections and politics became the favorite national pastime of the Filipinos side by side with radio and TV telenovelas and cockfighting.

I was proven right later, when Jose Huizar ran against him and another Filipina candidate. Later, Huizar won handily later after he got the Filipino-American community’s support. An example was the defiant Filipina-American candidate, Ruby De Vera gave Huizar a scare in that elections when she finished a good third place behind two Latino candidates in a Latino majority district, carried by Filipino-American community votes.

In District 13, when Eric Garcetti first ran as a councilman , I was proven right again. Eric was relatively unknown and was running against a known Chinese-American, who was once a council member of our district and as a Mayor of Los Angeles.

We asked him to campaign with the Filipino-American veterans and brought him to them. There were still many Filipino veterans in Filipinotown then. An ordinary veterans’ meeting can bring more than 200 of them in one place.

In that election, he narrowly won, by a very slight margin of 200 votes. And those were Filipino-American community votes. Specifically, the Filipino veterans’ votes. There were more than 18,000 veterans living in California that time out of the more than 36,000 who immigrated to America and became American citizens in 1992.

When then aspiring Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ran for the second time against James Hahn, he ignored the Filipino-American and the API community. We joined the API groups in supporting incumbent Mayor Hahn. Hahn lost but Villaraigosa lost the Asian American votes, especially the Filipino-American voters, despite winning all the ethnic groups. We have taught him a lesson he will never forget.

Some Filipino –American minimalist and armchair analyst will question our analysis and point out the fact that the Filipino-American community is still a sleeping giant and have not proved its clout. They expect too much of Filipino pride and political power, but as always, they chide and rant from the comforts of the academe or by clogging the internet with their so-called advocacy.

But I will tell them that the Filipino-American community has existed less than a hundred years in America, contrary to the claims of some that we have been here in America as a community for 425 years.Granting them the benefit of the doubt, I say being here is a different story. As an empowered community, we have just barely begun to start the fight.

The main bulk of the core of our community came during the Kennedy years of the early 1960’s. More than 300,000 Filipinos comprised what is called the “brain drain of the Philippines.” But like “ a bad thing being turned into a good thing”, this brain drain became a diaspora for building a new community outside of our homeland.

The Filipino-American community in North America, in the United States did not stage another uprising in the United States like what they did in EDSA in 1986 and 2001.

They did not spawn a revolution like those in 1896 and 1986. Instead they mobilized and educated themselves, went to the polls as a community and voted for continuing change for the better in the last election.

For this phenomenon, I have all the reasons to be proud and call myself a Filipino-American voter.

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