| Photo by Sarah Yuen/Defence Images via Creative Commons/Flickr
Part XXV of the “ReVOTElution of H.O.P.E.” Series
The “ReVOTElution” will not be able to change — not now and in the foreseeable future — the present mindset of many Filipino politicians and Filipino-American community leaders. It is also impossible to change even the mindset of many young voters. Because their elders have schooled them that politics is not the art of doing the public more good. But to make fame and fortune — often at the expense of the people. As I wrote in this column on Aug. 29, “Voters Must Go for ‘Back-to-Basics’ Governance and ‘Bike-to-Basics’ Exercise.” And it will be a futile exercise for now. But hope springs eternal, to use an oft-quoted adage. We are not giving up the idea. We are only ceasing, for now, our efforts to persuade minor Filipino political parties (from the left, center, and right wings) to work together in achieving the people’s socio-economic empowerment.
Dictionaries define “mindset” as the “established set of attitudes held by someone.” As used in this sentence, “the society (or a nation) seems stuck in a medieval mindset.” Yes, even elections in many Filipino American associations are tainted. I call the “medieval mindset” of some of its founders, if not also their past and present leaders.
This column can enumerate instances when so many Filipino American associations (and even public-benefit corporations) conduct elections that violate Robert’s Rules of Order (RRO). And which lack common sense. Here’s a case of a celebrated case of a regional election of what was then-billed as the largest Filipino American federation (of an exaggerated number of 3,000 member associations): its Committee on Election (COMELEC) “amended” the by-laws (on the day of the election). It permitted to vote even non-delegates that just arrived in Las Vegas from San Diego in a chartered bus the very morning of the election held on Oct. 1, 2000. And to think that the COMELEC was composed of three Filipino American lawyers, one of them was even a judge in San Francisco. The COMELEC also permitted other registered convention delegates to cast their ballots without paying the then-required $25 voter’s registration fee — again in violation of the federation’s by-laws (in addition to the $175 convention-attendance fee).
This columnist was one of two candidates in that “historic” (sic) 2000 election of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). I persuaded the rest of our 35 delegates not to walk out and proceed with the election. Even if we did not have the so-called “Chinaman’s chance.” After all, I reasoned out that there were just two candidates in the election, and the runner-up became the regional vice-chair automatically. (I got 39 votes, and the winner obtained 79 votes, with 45 of those coming from the San Diego not-qualified voters.)
In less than a year, the “winner” of the said Oct. 1, 2000 election decided to resign, as he was running for a seat in a City Council. So, I declared myself automatically the “acting regional chair.” The NaFFAA founders decided to “amend” again the by-laws and said that the new rule was for its national chairman to make the appointment for the vacant position. And he kicked me and the other 34 delegates to the 2000 NaFFAA national convention and indirectly severing relations to hundreds of community associations where the 35 of us were elected leaders.
A few years later, Ricky Rillera, the executive editor of the Philippine Daily Mirror, wrote in his column (in another Filipino American newspaper in New Jersey) that the “NaFFAA had actually less-than 200 associations as members.” Yes, the “NaFFAAgate” (as I coined it) nearly destroyed the federation. And it continues to find difficulty in attracting new members or persuading former members to rejoin it.
“One of my supporters hailed from the Southern Philippines remarked in 2001, “Dugay na sila sa America pero tonto pa gihapon” (They have stayed in America that long, yet they are still not intelligent or street-smart). I dubbed then this Filipino saying as the Dugayism Syndrome.”
One of my supporters hailed from the Southern Philippines remarked in 2001, “Dugay na sila sa America pero tonto pa gihapon” (They have stayed in America that long, yet they are still not intelligent or street-smart). I dubbed then this Filipino saying as the Dugayism Syndrome. And the whole fiasco as “NaFFAA-ka lungkot, Kuya Eddie” episode of our Filipino American history.
And you know what? Another association in Southern California is aping what the NaFFAA COMELEC did in October 2000. The second straight election insists on a virtual election requiring voters to cast ballots by e-mail to the COMELEC. And adhering to the association by-laws, candidates must obtain 50 percent of the votes cast to be elected. Incidentally, the number of voters does not even exceed 40 individuals and ex-officio (former) chairs.
This columnist was the runner-up and automatic vice-chair and chairman-elect (for 2006) of the pioneering association in 2005 in an election conducted by the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles. Nearly-300 community leaders participated in that election. After almost a decade, it became a public-benefit corporation. All of us, former chairs, became ex-officio Board members. In last year’s election, I also advised the same COMELEC in several e-mails that its members could use common sense as the number of candidates was less than the vacancies in its Board of Directors. I reasoned out that the RRO permitted “voting by acclamation” or by “viva voce.” But the COMELEC would not listen.
The same association is conducting another election for 11 vacancies in its Board, but there are only ten candidates. History repeats itself. The same modus operandi is happening. And worse, the ballot sent as an attachment in an e-mail was defective because the recipient voter could not mark with an “X” at least six (minimum) of the ten candidates for the 11 vacant positions. They advised taking a photograph of the ballot, printing it, doing the “X-ing,” photograph it again, and e-mail the second photo back to the COMELEC. The COMELEC does not realize that the required 50 percent (plus one more vote) requirement happens only in a primary election (like in California) wherein a run-off election is mandated if no candidate obtains the required “50%-plus-1” requirement. The two candidates with the highest number of primary votes proceed to run in a run-off election. But this is an election to fill up 11 vacancies in (with only ten candidates for) the Bored, oops, Board of Directors.
The actual and legal practice for voting by mail requires the “slow-mailing” of ballots; completed ballots are mailed back by “slow-mail” (or in designated drop boxes) in a sealed envelope (not in an e-mail) to the election board. Because votes should not be read in advance by officials running the election – before the actual canvassing of ballots.
The Dugayism Syndrome seems to be in vogue again. This columnist will not be surprised if pundits call the association the “Kalayuan” (after the Filipino word “Malayo,” the equivalent of “far”). Yes, the association behaves “far from the truth” or norm of conduct or “far from, and without, common sense.”
“Once again, the Dugayism Syndrome of some Filipino leaders — either here or abroad — limits the power of the pen. And as I wrote decades of summers ago, “the majority of Filipino voters cannot rise above the level of their leaders’ competence.”
As I wrote in 2007, Americans of Filipino descent (even if they are dual citizens) would not advocate clean elections in the Philippine homeland — if they could not undertake clean suffrage even in their community organizations.
And thus, with this instant column, I end the series ReVOTElution of H.O.P.E. It appears that the exercise of suffrage in the Philippines is beyond redemption for the present, as many of the Overseas Filipino “redeemers” need to be redeemed first themselves. Once again, the Dugayism Syndrome of some Filipino leaders — either here or abroad — limits the power of the pen. And as I wrote decades of summers ago, “the majority of Filipino voters cannot rise above the level of their leaders’ competence.”
Yes, this columnist (and other reformers) were just born probably one or two generations ahead of the times of genuine reforms. And the era of common sense, as embellished by heavy doses of humor and biting satire.