by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
In the headquarters of the Filipino-Americans for Obama Movement, there is a poster-sized black-and-white photograph of martyred Filipino reformer Benigno S. Aquino hanging next to a huge color photograph of Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Ninoy Aquino and Barack Obama both embody change,” says Danny Lamila, head of the 200-member FilAm organization that is working to help catapult Obama to the White House in January 2009.
The Aquino portrait has a deeper connection to Lamila than meets the eye. He had known Aquino from the time the Tarlac Province senator was incarcerated by the Marcos regime during the Martial Law years until he was assassinated at the Manila International Airport after returning from years of exile in Boston, Massachusetts in August 1983. So when this writer interviewed Lamila on Saturday morning at his mid-Wilshire house that doubles as headquarters of his organization, he took pains to brief a handful of journalists about his many years of collaboration with Aquino.
Lamila was one of the founders of the Ninoy Aquino Movement, a forerunner of the Movement for a Free Philippines, an organization founded by Senator Raul Manglapuz to oppose Marcos’ imposition of Martial Law. Lamila claimed that NAM was also a part of the “People Power” movement that eventually ousted Marcos in February 1986 and sent him to exile in Hawaii.
Today, Lamila is once again involved in a movement. His grassroots organization is advocating for the election of Senator Barack Obama as the first minority leader to win nomination of a major political party. “We cannot just be fence-sitters and just watch what’s going on. We should demand what is right for us,” he begins. “In this campaign we are not thinking what Obama can do for the Filipino American community, but what the Filipino American community can do to help Obama,” he told Asian Journal.
He said that Obama faces many insurmountable problems when he is elected President in November. “We are talking about the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, the healthcare system. This country is bankrupt. We are working on what you call a Ponze scheme. We are borrowing to pay the debts of this country,” Lamila said. “We are borrowing extensively from China. That’s why, eventually, you and I will have to speak Chinese.”
“For the first time, we are going to have a minority to lead this most powerful country in the world. But that’s not how we look at it,” Lamila reasons. “Being a minority, we are going to be part of history. We have to work with Obama.” He said one of the movement’s first priorities is to ask Obama to advance the cause of the Filipino World War II veterans through the veterans’ equity bill now being debated in the House, and universal healthcare system.
He believes that Obama would pick Hillary Clinton to be his runningmate. In fact, he had already e-mailed Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago and made that suggestion. “Hillary should be in his ticket because she can add a lot of ideas to the Obama campaign,” Lamila said. Hillary’s campaign promised to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, which, Lamila said, favors only rich people. “Here in the US, if you are poor, you’ll have a hard time getting health insurance,” Lamila said. “Case in point: my wife and I pay $259 each every month for health coverage. How can poor people afford to pay that much to buy health insurance?”
Lamila also said that Hillary and Obama both support withdrawing the American troops from Iraq. “Obama’s plan would involve pulling out all the ground forces from Iraq, letting Iraq forces fight the war, and leaving a strike force to prevent Iran, Syria and Turkey from invading the country.
“We are spending $10 billion a month (to fund the Iraq war). We cannot afford it anymore,” he said. “I love and respect (Republican Party nominee) John McCain. I have followed his life since he was released from a Vietnam prison. But I lost my respect for him for supporting and continuing to support the war in Iraq.”
“This election is not a question of Obama being a minority. This election is about choice. And Obama is the only choice. If you want to buy homes at $99 each, or gasoline at $20 a gallon, vote for McCain,” said Sharusal Islam, a Bangladeshi neighbor of Lamila. He added that of the 50,000 Bangladeshis living in California, 20,000 are registered to vote in the elections. “I assure you that 90 per cent of them will vote for Obama,” Islam said.