POSTSCRIPT / October 19, 2004 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Stink in AFP logistics goes higher than Garcia

STINKS TO THE TOP: As this is being written, Ilocos Rep. Imee Marcos is peppering Gen. Narciso Abaya, AFP chief of staff, with searching questions on the apparently loose management of hundreds of millions in military funds.

It is apparent, at least to this observer, that the stink in the purchase of logistics and the “conversion” (meaning diversion) of funds will hover not only over Army Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, former AFP finance chief, but will go all the way up to Abaya.

The common wisdom is that Garcia or anybody in his position will not be able to do all those things without the knowledge, or even the complicity, of higher authority. Revelations in the House hearing tend to confirm this.

At some point, Garcia himself testified under oath that he released those huge sums or acted on multimillion-peso purchases only after approval of the chief of staff.

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CASE DELAYED: It is too early to make conclusions on the liability of any general — in fact the House is not looking into the guilt of anybody. But the top brass will have to contend with public perception fanned by media reports, the legislative inquiry and even chismis.

The uncanny fact about public perception in this country is that it is often on target.

But having witnessed spectacles such as this many times in the past, I dare say that no general will go to jail for pocketing military funds or receiving kickbacks (a general’s wife called them “gifts”) from suppliers.

With so many top officers apparently involved, they and their friends in key places will spare no effort protecting one another.

The sane thing to do, I think, is to suspend the free-wheeling congressional hearing and concentrate instead on the criminal investigation by the Ombudsman while preventing the flight of all suspects.

The House zarzuela interferes with and delays the proper processes — the investigation by the Ombudsman of criminal complaints and by military authorities before a court martial hearing formally opens.

Remedial legislation, if any, can wait.

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ELECTABLE FILAMS: In last Sunday’s POSTSCRIPT, we had Perry Diaz, a community leader and political activist in Sacramento, California, reciting a list of Filipino Americans who had been elected to public office in the United States even without a FilAm community in the area to support them.

He mentioned, among them, Mayor Monty Manibog of Monterey Park, California, Mayor Ed Portugal in a New England town, Jon Amores of the West Virginia Statehouse, Jeff Coleman of the Pennsylvania Statehouse, Mayor J. Owen Diaz of Milan, Michigan, Mayor Andrew Luzod of Melvindale, Michigan, and Ruth Uy-Asmundson of the city council of Davis, California, who later became mayor this year.

“With these track records of running for offices without any Filipino American base of support, Monty, Ed, Jon, Jeff, Owen, Andrew, and Ruth proved that FilAms are electable anywhere in the US,” Perry noted. “It doesn’t matter whether Philippine-born or US-born, a FilAm can compete in the American political system and win!”

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THE QUESTION: Then Perry asked: “Is it then fair to assume that a Filipino American running in a political district with a large FilAm base has the best chance of getting elected?”

He answered his question — I think in the negative — by citing cases of FilAms running for office in places where there was a significant Filipino community:

“In Daly City, California, with 35-percent FilAm population, no Filipino American candidate succeeded in winning a seat on the City Council until 1994 when Mike Guingona beat another FilAm candidate.

“What was unique in that election was the involvement of the FilAm community, which brokered the selection of one FilAm candidate to run. However, Mike Guingona did not participate in the FilAm ‘primary,’ therefore, he was unrestricted from running.

“Guingona saw an opportunity that would be favorable to his candidacy. He wooed the non-Filipino, mostly white voters, and got their support. He became the mainstream candidate and beat the FilAm community’s candidate.

“In 2002, a young Filipina American entrepreneur ran for the City Council of San Diego. The southern California metropolis — America’s seventh largest city — with a huge FilAm population has never had a FilAm on the City Council.

“Marissa Acierto decided to go for it. No other FilAm ran. It would have been a grand opportunity for the FilAm community of San Diego to unite behind Marissa and put the first FilAm in the City Council. She came out fourth in a crowded field of 11 candidates.

“What is sad in Marissa’s candidacy was the lack of support from the FilAm community. Adding insult to injury, the FilAm community turned its back on her and endorsed her non-Filipino opponents. In spite of the opposition to her, she came out fourth place.

“This year, Marissa is running again for a vacant seat in District 4 in San Diego. Six African Americans are also running. Marissa was able to get the endorsements of Mexican Americans, Whites, Asians, and some African American groups.

“Conspicuously missing is the FilAm community endorsement. Again, some FilAm community leaders endorsed at least three African American candidates.

“In 2002, another Filipina came very close to winning an assembly seat in Nevada. Geny del Rosario, a FilAm business owner, ran in Assembly District 34 in Las Vegas. She won the primary election but lost in the general election by about 250 votes.

“From what I heard, FilAms under the auspices of a certain Asian labor group campaigned for her opponent, an African American. Geny ended up paying her volunteers to walk precincts for her. Had 126 Asians and Filipinos who voted for the other candidate voted for her instead, Geny would have won.

“Marissa and Geny were good candidates and would have won their campaigns if the FilAm communities in their districts supported them, or maybe just stayed away and not endorsed their opponents.”

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CRAB MENTALITY: Perry concluded that “after more than 400 years of Filipino presence in America, and being the second largest Asian ethnic group, the FilAm community is not ready to bring itself to a higher level of political sophistication.”

He explained: “Filipino American political leaders are more interested in protecting their little turfs by supporting non-FilAm candidates with the belief that FilAm candidates have less chances of winning. In other words, they are assured of the ‘political appointments’ that usually follow a victorious campaign.

“FilAm political leaders need to rise above the pettiness of ‘barangay politics’ and think outside of the box, and free themselves from political bondage. This mindset has been our biggest drawback.

“We should push each other up. Instead, we are pulling each other down and the whole community loses. The community needs to get its act together. We have a choice: political enlightenment or perpetual political bondage.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 19, 2004)

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