Friday, November 25, 2011


Young Filipino-American supporters of President Obama have begun mobilizing to work for his re-election bid next year.

“We have been rebuilding our base, reconnecting with Filipinos,” Ben de Guzman revealed. He said they’ve been knocking on doors in New Jersey and are planning a large campaign kick-off in December to convince Fil-Ams to register and vote in 2012.

Jason Lagria, national co-chairman of Kaya Filipino Americans for Progress, told the Manila Mail that they’ve started identifying “key targeters” in the community who can serve as volunteers. “We’re making sure the infrastructure is in place so we’re launching Filipinos for Obama 2012 in December and have our first events by January,” he explained.

Veterans of the Filipinos for Obama campaign in 2008 are reunited at the recent Dakila Awards ceremonies in Arlington, VA. From left, Marita Etcubanez, Irene Bueno, Vida Benavides, Jon Melegrito, Ben de Guzman, Charmaine Manansala and Jason Lagria. Photo by Bing Branigin.

They concede that with the tough economic times, they have their work cut out for them. “The political climate is obviously very different. The environment is more polarized now which is why it’s important for people to be out there and have the conversation person to person,” De Guzman told the Manila Mail.

“You just really have to engage the people whether you agree with them or not and that’s part of what we’re doing,” he added.

Lagria said one advantage is that they are able to mobilize earlier than they did in 2008. “It’s a year out right now and we’re already planning,” he said, “In 2008 the nomination for president wasn’t even done until December but now we have a whole year and we’re going to make sure the entire Asian American community is working together and every Asian American will be voting.”

The Filipino American Journal conducted a poll of its readers last month and concluded that “Obama is in trouble”. It quoted Professor Albert Celoza, head of the Liberal Arts department at the Phoenix Colleges, as predicting “voters’ frustration will work against his chances of being re-elected.”

Celoza said he voted for Obama in 2008 but is still undecided for 2012.

“It’s the hard economic times,” Lagria explained, “obviously we’re going to be aggressive. We believe the job plan Obama has for the economy and the country is the right way for us; it’s going to make sure all Americans are going to prosper in this economy and not just for some people.”

A pre-election survey by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and Federation of Philippine-American Chambers of Commerce (FPACC) in 2008 revealed that 36 percent of the Fil-Am respondents favored then Sen. Obama while 30 percent was inclined to swing for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain. The breakdown revealed that a significant portion – about a third – were undecided a week before the last presidential elections.

“I think Filipinos, like any other Asian group, are the quintessential movable middle. We have higher rates to decline party affiliations so if you make the argument for us, we will vote our conscience and not necessarily based on party but on what’s right,” De Guzman averred.

Lagria argued that Pres. Obama has been good to Asian Americans. “Look at his record on diversity – he’s nominated 8 Asian-Americans to federal courts when there were just 7 ever before that. He’s basically doubled the number of Asian Americans in the judiciary and he’s done the same thing in his Cabinet and throughout his administration.”

“We should always make sure that our leaders are thinking about everybody. I especially believe he’s thinking of all Asian Americans and Filipino Americans,” Lagria said.

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