Of Election Winners, Losers And FilVets

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) —  Some politicians may easily give up after losing in just one try. Not in the case of Filipino American optometrist Jennifer Ong, who lost by 2,278 votes to Bill Quirk for the 20th assembly seat of the California Assembly. Dr. Ong got 44,016 votes against Quirk’s 46,294.

“My campaign team’s ability to overcome running against four elected officials in June was already an unexpected victory,” Ong said in an email to this columnist as she took pleasure in her accomplishment. She must be recalling her victory in the June 5th, 2012 Open Primary election that set her up against Quirk last Nov. 6 General Elections.

In other words, her unexpected strong showing against Quirk is already a bonus as she  “gained support from diverse communities such as the Taiwanese community, the Sikh community and our volunteers from the disabled community to mention a few (who) has allowed us to meet yet another goal: to engage new voters and those who have been disengaged and jaded by politics.

“A most special mention of course to KAYA members Genevieve Jopanda, Michael Pangilinan and Erin Pangilinan, our FilAm volunteers Benjamin Gonzalez, D’Artagnan Twomey, Michelle Marqueda and Jennifer Twomey as well as NAFCON leader Rico Foz.

“I am determined more than ever to continue to work hard to serve the public and encourage leaders from underrepresented communities to realize their potential.”

Her loss never dampened her dream to become the first Filipino American lady to be elected in the California State assembly. The honor, of course, as the first Filipino American gentleman to be so elected in the august body had gone to incumbent Alameda, California Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, who won the 16th District of the California State Assembly.

BONTA FIELDING CONGRATULATIONS

Bonta must be very busy fielding calls congratulating him as he never returned the call of this columnist the day after his Nov. 6 elections, seeking comments on his analysis of his victory. Here’s hoping Bonta would not tire responding to his well-wishers.

But in the case of Filipino World War II veterans, it seems their cries for fairness and equality are not just going away.

While big Filvet supporter, Rep. Bob Filner (D-50th), had bowed out from U.S. Congress after he ran and became the new mayor of San Diego, another eminent Filvet supporter, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco), who introduced the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011, has cemented her hold in her 14th district by clobbering her rival, Debbie Bacigalupi, with 3-1 votes.

Another Filvet supporter, Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI-2nd), has kept, if not extended, her ability to influence the cause of the Filipino veterans by being elected as the new senator from Hawaii, a post vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who is also a big backer of Filipino veteran causes.
Aside from supporting Speier’s Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, Senator-elect Hirono also introduced the “Filipino Veterans of World War II Family Reunification Act” (H.R. 2115) that exempts the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans from immigration quotas that have delayed the receipt of immigrant visas to the United States, which has kept these family members apart.

Aside from Hirono, another senator on the other side of the aisle, who is also backing the Filipino veterans, is Sen. Dean A. Heller of Nevada, who introduced the senate version of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act (S. 3530), who was elected as Nevada senator. The bill “would establish a process for Filipinos who fought alongside the U.S. military during World War II and have documentation to work with military historians so they can receive proper benefits for their service.”

24,000 FILVETS DENIED BENEFITS

There are some 24,000 Filipino veterans who applied for recognition and for the benefit under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But their applications have been turned away because their names could not be found in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Heller’s bill will complement Rep. Speier’s Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 that is also co-sponsored by another Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck. Mr. Heck also won re-election in his 3rd district last Nov. 6. Heck has earned the distinction of having delivered eulogies twice on the floor of the U.S. Congress to pay tribute on the passing of Filipino World War II veterans Augusto R. Oppus and Cmdr. Francisco “Frank” Cedula. Oppus died of stroke at the age of 87 last March while Cedula died on Feb. 2, 2011, at the age of 88. Mr. Cedula was the only survivor of the Battle of [Barangay] Piis, known as Kilometer 135 in Lucban, Quezon Province in the Philippines.

Heller’s win, however, dealt a blow to another supporter of the Filipino veterans when he beat Rep. Shelley Berkley. Berkley, like Rep. Heck, also co-sponsored Speier’s Filipino Fairness Act of 2011. Berkley stepped down from her congressional post to oppose Heller.

The six-term Democratic Representative Berkley representing Nevada’s first district was described by his supporters as “one of the strongest voices for veterans of all races and backgrounds on Capitol Hill as a proud daughter of a World War II veteran.”

As an icing on the cake, Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary and Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, issued a last-minute announcement to lure the votes of the 3.4-M Filipino Americans, launching an Interagency Working Group comprised of officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Record Administration. The group was “tasked with analyzing the process faced by these Filipino veterans in demonstrating eligibility for compensation in order to ensure that all applications receive thorough and fair review. This is part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing efforts to honor the contributions of all veterans in their service to our country.”

With the election of President Obama, I hope, the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 and the Filipino Veterans of World War II Family Reunification Act” (H.R. 2115) will sail thru Congress while the surviving claimants are still alive. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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