Filipino-American Political Participation..

The acknowledged under-represntation of Asian American in politics, especially that of Filipinos, brings to light the question of whether or not Asian should vote for Asian candidates solely on the basis of ethnicity.

From the Harvard University Philippine Forum and Ugnayang Pilipino Quarterly Publication ten years ago when two Filipino-American were running for the city council. The following are cut and paste form the Publication in 1989.

The Editorial. We believe that it is important for Asian American to voice their opinions and to participate in the electoral process.But to vote for a candidate because he/she is a good Filipino/Asian will not serve the public good unless that candidate is clearly prepared and qualified for the position sought.The question of ethnicity should neither dissuade nor persuade one to vote for a particular candidate.Similarly voters should not automatically support candidates who field Asian running mates.It is a tenuous line that Asian candidates must walk in order avoid the stigma of tokenism.Moreover to overcome any questions of qualification, Asian candidates must demonstrate the highest levels of aptitude, integrity, and dedication the constituency they hope to deserve.

Thus, we urge Filipinos with a sense of public service to come forward and represent their community in the process of legislation.As Filipinos will find out in the upcoming 1990 census, they are the largest Asian minority group in the United States.Filipinos also tend to have one largest voter registration rates among the Asian minorities (about 27%).Whether the great number of Filipinos can be translated into political power will depend on the success and interest generated by able public servants and dedicated political activist such as Hawaiian Lt. Gov Ben Cayetano and Irene Natividad.

Call for unity. For years now, a prominent political organization has been persuading Filipino-Americans of their need to unify.Frankly, "this call for unity" has been annoying.The terms unity is vague and those who use the term never make explicit what "unity" can do for Filipino-Americans.

Do they mean "unity for political empowerment?” unity for social justice? Or do the mean unity for economic advancement.

Assuming that the national community of Filipino-Americans does somehow achieve this state of "unity", what then?Unless this achievement can be converted into tangible benefits for individuals in the community, that achievement will have served no purpose.If Filipino-American leaders insist on talking about the need for unity, let them at least discuss.

1. The discrete steps the plan to take in order to achieve this goal, and

2. The specific objectives for which unity is a prerequisite.

Otherwise, the phrase becomes nothing more than an overused, unimaginative political slogan.

Romel Colanta, MD-PhD '91 who was raised in Jersey City wrote:

The influence that Asian Americans will have in future local, state, and national election will be linked to their pattern of voter registration.Participation in the democratic process is essential if Asian-American communities are to influence the course of legislation.As politicians fro the various Asian communities make slow, but steady, progress in the political arena, these communities as a whole can have profound effects on the course of legislation by participation in "constructive activism."

Individually, Asian Americans have exerted a measure of influence by contributing to the political campaigns of non-Asian candidates.Aside from significant into the coffers of Asian candidates and non Asians in national and state elections also have received substantial financial support from the Asian American community. Irene Natividad, Chairwoman of the national Women’s political Caucus warns Asian Americans that "power struggles among the powerless are useless and the key to addressing our needs is thought political power, not only through campaign contributions, both thought political representation."

The gap of political under representation will be bridge only after Asian Americans have traversed the political learning curves.Effective and constructive activism, such as that undertaken by the Japanese-American community in their pursuit of justice for wartime internment demonstrates the possibilities of community action and greater understanding of the inside political game.Filipinos in particular, who do not have common issues and causes to unify them such as the Japanese-Americans and other minorities must be over more diligent in their effort to participate in community activism lest the fade into powerless obscurity.Without active participation in effort such as voter registration, membership in political organizations, and diligent monitoring of current local legislation, Filipinos and other Asians risk not having role models and a spirit of activism within their families and communities.

The event at that time was the race for city council seats in Jersey City features two Filipino-American candidates running for at-large elective posts.Flor a Medel and Joseph B Bunao are among the 106 hopefuls who have declared their candidacy to represent the city's 6 wards and 3 at large posts.

Although Jersey City is generally perceived to contain a significant and influential Filipino population (estimated to be 20,000), both Ms Medel and Mr. Bunao downplay the significance of splitting the Filipino vote.According to Mr. Bunao, "Since there are 3 at-large seats anyway, the Filipino community can vote both of us into office, if anything, we would be splitting the white vote for both of us.

Ms Medel, on the other hand, claims that of the 100,000 voters registered in Jersey City, only 2,000 are Filipino-Americans.Therefor, it is not essential to her campaigns that she wins all of this community’s votes,In the previous City Council elections, 28,000 votes were sufficient for a third place finish and an at-large berth.

Current Report:

Both Medel and Bunao lost their bid 10 years ago. Ador Equipado is trying his bid for Hudson county political seat under the GOP banner against the heavily democratic stronghold is the coming Nov '99 election.Ms Linda Mayo recently won a seat in the Jersey City's School Board.

Ben Cayetano was electedand re-elected Governor of Hawaii.

"..Filipinos are real neophytes in American politics.Organization has never been one of our strong suits."

Cayetano, LtGovernor '89

It is not enough just to vote.Go out there and promote our cause. Be convincing.

Nestor Palugod Enriquez


Nice piece of information and it is very timely.I hope this wake us members of Pagea to get more involved in this democratic process.Regardless of how we feel about the chances of a candidate winning in any election, if we feel he will serve our community, it is our responsibilty to go out and vote.Otherwise, we won't get counted and other electorate will always think that the Filipino vote is not important or significant enough to affect the final results.With all the benefits or priviledges we enjoy in our adopted country comes great responsibility.We not only owe it to our kababayans but also to our future Pinoy generations.See what the governor of Hawaii was able to accomplish.I hope that I get a chance to see one of our kababayans achieve the same status and recognition in New Jersey or East Coast. ......

Rey Tolentino, Jersey City

what the governor of Hawaii was able to accomplish.  I hope that I get a chance to see one of our kababayans achieve the same status and recognition in New Jersey or East Coast. ......Ray Tolentino

Mr. Enriquez,

I agree with the information you sent us.   To reiterate, without active participation in effort such as voter registration, membership in political organizations, and diligent monitoring of current legislation, Filipinos risk not having role models and a spirit of activism within their families and communities.

Filipinos with a sense of public service should come forward and represent their community in the process of legislation.   Candidates should be an emblem of unification among filipino community politically, socially, and economically.   They should be deserving enough to gather votes because of their achievements, contributions, and dedication to  the betterment of the filipino race ( not to self grandiosity).   Candidates should be agressive in campaigning, equitably, in representing us in every aspect of advancement.   Filipinos should assemble together, cautiously select , and unconditionally assist their leader/s that will proudly stand for their values, ideals, and responsive enough to their goals.    With an excellent and interesting candidate/s ,  we will see a big turn of filipino voter registrant, followed by conscientious members of political organizations, and  the effect will be well adept filipinos in current local legislation (domino effect).

                                                                                                        Jeana Abuan

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