FilAms Run for Democratic Central Committee

By Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/

DALY CITY – The Filipino American Democratic Club of San Mateo County formally endorsed five Filipino-Americans who ran for local office in San Mateo County on May 2 at the War Memorial Community Center in Daly City.

District 5’s Ray Buenaventura, Michael Guingona, Robert Uy and Ora Seyler, and District 1’s Buenaflor Nicolas, have all decided to represent the growing Filipino community. If elected, they will be a part of the Democratic Central Committee of San Mateo County.

The Democratic Central Committee makes the official Democratic Party endorsements in non-partisan municipal, local district and county elections, as well as coordinates all the party’s activities in the San Mateo County. It is also the one who formulates policies and implements plans and programs of the Democratic National Committee. The Filipino American Democratic Club is under this committee.

San Mateo County covers about 22 cities, including Daly City, home to about 51,000 Filipinos. “There are approximately 17,000 potential voters in Daly City,” said Ray Satorre, Commisioner for the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. “If everyone votes, the candidates will win.”

The candidates

Two women and three men are reaching out to all Filipinos to vote for them on June 3.

“Twenty percent of San Mateo are Asians,” says lone District 1 candidate Buenaflor Nicolas. “But there are no Asians in the Central Committee, that is why we are underrepresented.”

“I want to be an example to encourage more youth to join the Democratic process,” she added to explain why she brought her kids to the convention.

Nicolas has been extremely active in the community, including her stint as Director to the Filipino American Club of San Mateo County. She believes that if elected to the Central Committee, she would be able to bring forward issues and concerns in the community, like the Filipino Veterans Equity Act and those affecting minority women. She is also a senior manager for a major biopharmaceutical company in South San Francisco

Ora Seyler, a finance officer for a major corporate law firm in the Bay Area and an active leader in the FilAm community, wants to get involved in the passage of resolutions and endorsements of candidates, especially Filipinos.

“It’s time to show FilAm empowerment,” she said. “Even if we lose, we will continue to fight.”

Four-time Daly City Mayor Michael Guingona believes that there is a need to play a more active role in politics. “We need to be more organized to get more people to vote and increase their involvement,” he said. Born in San Francisco and raised in Daly City, Guingona also stressed the importance of working together.

No stranger to politics, Guingona was the first FilAm to be elected to City Council in 1993. His colleagues on the City Council elected him to his first of four stints as Mayor. For him, the electorate is a huge process and being on the Central Committee is an opportunity to make some changes from the grassroots. “There’s a reason why we’re here, and Filipinos should know that their votes count,” he said.

A staff attorney at the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, candidate Robert Uy has come across with the problems and issues concerning Asian immigrants.

“There are so many things [which need] to be addressed,” he said. “We have to bring focus on these issues that non-Asian-Americans may not be aware of.” These issues include immigrants’ rights, domestic violence, anti-human trafficking and other concerns in the Filipino community,

“There are not enough people representing us,” said Uy. “There have been times that FilAm candidates have been denied endorsements.”

The Club’s President, Ray Buenaventura also believes that it is important to start acting and get more involved. “There are no Filipinos or Asians in the Central Committee,” he said.

Buenaventura is currently in private practice, focusing on criminal defense and immigration. He has been actively involved in both local and national politics, and was recently elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August.

“This is a big thing, we are sticking our necks up. It is an uphill battle,” he assessed. Still, he feels that Filipinos can be encouraged if they see familiar faces actively engaged in the community. “This is a start, a new beginning, a first step. It is a sign of something to (new) to come.”

Who can vote

All natural-born FilAms and US citizens, at least 18-years-old, and are residents of the 5th or 1st District of San Mateo County, can vote for these candidates on June 3. “It’s not too late to become involved in the community,” said Guingona. “The Central Committee needs diversity.” (AJ, with reports from Joseph L. Peralta)

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