By Marivir R. Montebon
It feels like the excitement of the first 2016 presidential debate is as charged up as the past international boxing bouts of Filipino world champ Manny Pacquiao. The mood is simply electrifying, and never quite before in the past two elections.
My friends are inviting me to wine and dine as we watch the debate at 9PM tonight. Let me surprise you. The Filipino community is heightening its dynamism.
Last September 9, the Fil-Am Press Club of New York sponsored a presidential debate at the Philippine Consulate in cooperation with the office of Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. In that debate, dubbed as The US Presidential Elections: What’s In It For Me?, I came in close to the articulation of the principles and platform of the Democratic and Republican parties from the vantage point of Filipino American leaders.
The Filipinos ranked 6th largest ethnic group in the 5.9 million Asian American voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
Jeffrey Coleman, a Republican member of the House of Representatives in Philadelphia from 2001-2004 represented the Republican party. He was with Matthew Alonsozana, currently a research strategist for the Republican National Committee.
Loida Nicolas Lewis, founder of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations and Jason Tengco, outreach director for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Hillary represented the Democratic Party.
Health of the Economy and People
I asked about how Donald Trump might stop capital flight from the US as a way to stabilize the economy, as it is the prerogative of business to invest any where in the world, especially where labor costs are cheap.
To me, Coleman answered fairly well. He said presidents only set the tone for the economic environment, whether there is trust and openness. It was Congress, actually, who creates laws and rules that make for a stable and vibrant economy.
As for the uproar on the Affordable Health Care Act, I asked the Democratic party representatives on the complains of many doctors that they have not been paid regularly and on time. Two doctors that I have chatted with in fact were saying that being a government doctor in the US is a misery because they are not paid on time.
Mr. Tengco said that this problem is actually more administrative than it is economic. He assured the audience that the government is taking note of these glitches to be more efficient.
Mr. Alonsozana, on the other hand, asked the audience to dig deeper into the claims of the Democratic Party that the economy has gone better since Pres. Obama was in office.
Consul General de Leon lauded and encouraged more of public awareness events, saying that an “informed community is an empowered community.”
Institutional Racism and Social Inequities
Meanwhile, outside the Filipino community, people are just as anticipatory.
Journalism professor Gregg Morris of Hunter College says: “Because Trump has made clear his demagoguery and racist and fascist views and positions, I’m hoping what will be thrashed out in the course of the debate will be Clinton’s plans for immigration and racial and social inequities in housing, education, employment and the justice and criminal justice systems. I also want to know what she plans to do about the tyranny of corporate banking and corporate influence in elections. I’m not expecting much from her but I want to be able to guess what to expect.”
Mary Lonergan, Operations Director for the Len Ragozin Foundation says she expects race and racism in America to be tackled. “I want them to speak to the issue of institutional racism as revealed in police policy and practice.”
Filipino businesswoman Mirza Cairo has this to say, “Unfortunately, I don’t trust either of them. So no matter what they say in the debate it is just to gain votes,” while J. Robertson said she is rooting for Hillary Clinton in this debate.
The elderly Jean Martinez said she would vote for Trump. “We don’t need another politician,” she quips.
(Featured photo: L-R Coleman, Alonsozana, Tengco, and Nicolas-Lewis at the Fil-Am Press Club sponsored Democratic and Republican debate, in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General New York.
Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez Chrispin)