Filipino-Amer­i­cans: A po­lit­i­cal force

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - Am­bas­sador B. ROMUALDEZ Email: babeseye­view@gmail.com

The Philip­pines is gear­ing up for the May 2019 elec­tions with more than 18,000 elec­tive posts for the tak­ing, among them 12 slots for sen­a­tors, all 243 seats in Congress, 59 for party-list rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the rest for lo­cal posts from gover­nor down to mu­nic­i­pal coun­cilors. Can­di­dates from the se­ri­ous to the down­right hi­lar­i­ous have started fil­ing their cer­tifi­cates of can­di­dacy (COC) last Thurs­day, with the Com­elec ex­tend­ing the dead­line up to Oct. 17.

Here in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Repub­li­cans and Democrats are gear­ing up for the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tions. Up for con­tention are all 435 seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, 35 Se­nate seats (out of 100) as well as state and ter­ri­to­rial gov­er­nor­ships. Amer­i­cans will also be vot­ing on a num­ber of is­sues such as Med­i­caid health in­sur­ance, mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion, abortion and same-sex mar­riage.

The fight for con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is ex­tremely crit­i­cal for the Repub­li­cans (who cur­rently con­trol both the House and the Se­nate) as it could stymie the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s agenda, with Democrats con­tem­plat­ing im­peach­ment moves against Pres­i­dent Trump. To wrest con­trol of the House – which has been un­der Repub­li­can lead­er­ship since 2010 – the Democrats must flip 25 seats while the Repub­li­cans only need to hold on to eight to main­tain con­trol.

Ac­cord­ing to sev­eral polling out­fits, the Democrats have a more than 80 per­cent chance of win­ning the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and get­ting a slight ma­jor­ity. On the other hand, Repub­li­cans are seen to re­tain con­trol of the Se­nate, since Democrats will have dif­fi­culty keep­ing 26 out of the 35 seats that are be­ing con­tested, plus the fact that 10 of the seats in con­tention are in states won by Pres­i­dent Trump in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

But what we in the Philip­pine em­bassy are closely mon­i­tor­ing is how more Filipino-Amer­i­cans are get­ting in­volved and in­creas­ing their pres­ence and par­tic­i­pa­tion in US pol­i­tics. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey re­sults re­leased by the US Cen­sus Bureau, there are now four mil­lion Filipino-Amer­i­cans who are re­sid­ing and work­ing in the US, mak­ing them the third largest Asian group in Amer­ica.

Dur­ing my first ad­dress to Filipino com­mu­ni­ties in the United States and the Caribbean as Philip­pine Am­bas­sador in De­cem­ber last year, I un­der­scored the vi­tal role that Filipino-Amer­i­cans can play in strength­en­ing Philip­pines-US re­la­tions, and how im­por­tant it is for them to have their share of voice – to be more vo­cal, vis­i­ble and strate­gic – in order to pur­sue their goals, in­ter­ests and aspi­ra­tions.

In my first of­fi­cial trip to New York last Fe­bru­ary on the oc­ca­sion of the 4th Filipino-Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Gen­eral Assem­bly at the Philip­pine Cen­ter, I told the New York-based mem­bers of the me­dia that “Filipinos are a potent force,” but may not re­al­ize how much power they have.

Dur­ing that meet­ing, I en­cour­aged Filipino-Amer­i­cans to voice out their con­cerns, po­si­tions and ideas to their sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives so that these leg­is­la­tors will take cog­nizance of such when they craft pol­icy.

We are very pleased to see an in­creas­ing num­ber of Filipinos who have cho­sen – or are choos­ing – to go into pub­lic ser­vice, among them Utah At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sean Reyes, the first Filipino Amer­i­can At­tor­ney Gen­eral who may run for Utah Gover­nor; Mayor Ron Fal­coni of Brunswick who is the first Filipino mayor in the state of Ohio; and Con­gress­man Bobby Scott who is now on his 13th term as Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Third District of Vir­ginia. (See pho­tos in This Week on Peo­ple-Asia at the Al­lure sec­tion of the Philip­pine STAR.)

Three Filipino-Amer­i­can women have also de­cided to throw their hat into the po­lit­i­cal arena and are run­ning in the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tions as rep­re­sen­ta­tives in their re­spec­tive dis­tricts: Gina Or­tiz-Jones from the 23rd District of Texas; Cristina Os­meña from the 14th Con­gres­sional District of Cal­i­for­nia; and Dr. Jen­nifer Mi­jares-Zim­mer­man from the First Con­gres­sional District of Florida.

Gina Jones, a former Air Force in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and a vet­eran of the Iraq War, is run­ning un­der the ban­ner of the Democrats, just like Dr. Zim­mer­man who is fac­ing in­cum­bent and Repub­li­can con­gress­man Matt Gaetz. The fight in Florida is go­ing to be chal­leng­ing for Dr. Zim­mer­man as she is run­ning in a district that is known as the “most Repub­li­can” in the “sunshine state.” On the other hand, Cristina Os­meña – a great grand­daugh­ter of Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Os­meña – is run­ning as a Repub­li­can.

Re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal par­ties or af­fil­i­a­tions, what is im­por­tant is for Filipinos in the US to take part in the elec­toral ex­er­cise and ex­press their needs, con­cerns and ad­vo­ca­cies through the bal­lot nor just for them­selves but their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. Clearly, Filipino-Amer­i­cans have to make their voice clearer and stronger, and must band to­gether so po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and pol­icy mak­ers will be­gin to re­al­ize that Filipino-Amer­i­cans are a force to be reck­oned with.

Ob­vi­ously, the task is chal­leng­ing, but we con­tinue to in­ter­act with Fil-Am com­mu­ni­ties. The rea­son why I try to go around as much as I can and make it a point to meet Filipino-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity lead­ers all over the United States is to re­mind them of the sig­nif­i­cant role they play in US-Philip­pine re­la­tions.

Filipinos all over the world are al­ways wel­comed and ap­pre­ci­ated by their host coun­tries be­cause they as­sim­i­late well and con­tribute pos­i­tively to the com­mu­ni­ties where they re­side. Ev­ery time I meet a US con­gress­men or a se­na­tor, it makes me proud to hear them tell me of how they ap­pre­ci­ate Filipinos as hard­work­ing, highly skilled in­di­vid­u­als and pro­duc­tive mem­bers of their so­ci­ety.

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