November 2003

By Perry Diaz

Arnold-Schwarzenegger-Total-RecallRecently, I attended the General Membership Luncheon of the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce.  The special guest speaker was Jay Alan, the News Editor of “News Talk” program of the 1530 KFBF Radio.  A political commentator, Mr. Alan remarked that the Recall Election marked a change in direction and a change in attitude in California.  He also commented that had the Recall Election also asked for the recall of all the 120 legislators, it would have passed.  Wouldn’t that be something?  A Total Recall.

Assuming that a Total Recall had happened, can you imagine the impact it would have made?  With a new governor, 40 new senators and 80 new Assemblymen, it would turn the Capitol into a circus.  However, all the new legislators would not be carrying the excess baggage and bad habits of the politicians they replaced.  As a matter of fact, you’d probably see a harmonious relationship between Arnold and the new legislators.  After all, they would have been elected on the same premise – to change the way business is being done at the Capitol.

 With the composition of the California Legislature unchanged – and controlled by the Democrats – Governor Schwarzenegger needs all the political strength he can muster to terminate the financial suffering of California.  Conventional wisdom has it that the Democrats at the Capitol will pay Arnold lip service. They would probably tell each other, “Well, let’s see how Arnold can solve the state’s problems all by himself.”  By not lifting their fingers to help the new Republican governor, the Democrats would probably assume that Arnold would fail miserably and be out of office after the 2006 election.  They would then tell the Californians that they should have kept Davis in 2003 Recall Election and offer them an alternative  – a Democrat for Governor.  A nice game plan, isn’t it?

But one thing that is missing in this hypothetical Democratic “Comeback Plan” for 2006 is that another recall could be initiated at any time before 2006.  The people of California have spoken on October 7, 2003, that they want to change the way business is being done at the Capitol.  As a result of the October 7th mandate, the legislators are expected to show their willingness to cooperate with Governor Schwarzenegger to balance the budget.

With the prospect of getting recalled in their legislative districts, legislators have to be careful with how they vote in the Legislature.  Any deviance from their constituents’ wishes could trigger another recall.

Finally, Californians have found a way to change things outside of the legislative process.  Several times in the past, Californians have exercised their right to make drastic changes using the Initiative process.  Any one can change the law by getting a petition signed and voted upon by the voters.

In the 70’s, property taxes in California were out of control.  Homeowners were losing their homes because they could not pay their property taxes.  California’s government did not do anything to help them.  Two activists, Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, started a petition that started the “Proposition 13 Revolution.”  Proposition 13 as it was submitted to the voters would reduce property taxes by about 57%.  On June 6, 1978, nearly two-thirds of California voters passed Proposition 13.   The “Proposition 13 Revolution” swept the country and made headlines around the world.  It’s “people power” at work.

Twenty-five years later, Californians once again used their “people power” to stop the financial avalanche that was snowballing at a non-stop speed.  Once again, the people prevailed.  They kicked Gray Davis out of office – less than a year after he was reelected —  and installed political novice Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold’s victory was not the end, it was just the beginning of a process that would require all the political strength that he can muster.  Will he do what he promised to do – clean up Sacramento?  Or is he going to fall for the enticements of the political power brokers and settle for a status quo?  To go along with the “business as usual” approach would be the easy way for him to govern.  He would get the “cooperation” he needs from the Democratic-controlled Legislature.  But would it give him the “desired result” that was a covenant of his October 7th mandate?  What is he going to tell the people – his people – in 2006 if he plans to run for reelection?  Will they forget his promises in 2003?

Arnold’s best option is to play his real life like the way he did with his reel life. Yes, Governator, get mean when you really have to.  That’s what the people expected you to do.  Don’t disappoint your fans.  They all voted for you.


By Perry Diaz


Owen Diaz

Owen Diaz

For the first time in Michigan, two Filipino-Americans were elected as mayors in their respective cities.  Political newcomer Owen Diaz won his first political battle by defeating four-term incumbent Mayor David Ludwig of Milan, Michigan in a run-off last November 4, 2003.  In another political battle, Melvindale City Council Member and political veteran Andrew Luzod won the vacant Mayoral post by defeating City Treasurer John Kessey.


Diaz and Luzod have contrasting characteristics.  Luzod, an American-born Filipino-American, is a political veteran and insider.  Diaz, an immigrant from the Philippines and a political neophyte, clinched the mayorship by winning the primary election last August 5, 2003 in a three-way contest, and defeated the incumbent Mayor in a run-off with a message that resonated with the voters of Milan.  


Diaz, 57, was born and raised in the Philippines.  He immigrated to the United States in 1972.  He earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics at Eastern Michigan University.  He also received a degree in Financial Planning at the College of Financial Planning in Denver, Colorado.  He is a Certified Financial Planner.  An entrepreneur, he owned and operated a mail order business.


A resident of Milan for 27 years, Diaz is married to Ruth for 32 years.  Ruth is a medical doctor who graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1970.  Father of three, Ian Cromwell, a medical doctor, Niccolo, a computer animator, and Ruth Marlo, a graduate school student.


Asked why he ran for the office, Diaz stated, “I’m compelled to run for mayor because I see our surrounding neighbors that are progressing, all of this new housing coming in – is not the solution to lowering our property taxes.  Over the past few years we’ve lost some major businesses.  We need to focus on gaining back businesses and industries that pay decent wages, benefits, and also bring in revenue to the city.”  A visionary, Diaz outlined his Four Major Visions for Milan as follows: 1) Reduce Property Taxes; 2) Develop An Industrial Park Attractive to Businesses and Industries; 3) Revitalize Downtown; and 4) Emphasize Family First.


He explained that the basic foundation of our society is family.  He said that he would encourage parents to seek to balance work and family, to work at home by starting their home-based business, so they can be with their children especially in their character forming ages. 


With the Diaz and Luzod victories, I believe that they proved that Filipino-Americans could be viable candidates, even in communities where there is hardly any Filipino or Asian.  According to Diaz, there were only a handful of Asians and Filipinos in Milan.  And maybe that is the key to their victory.  With a small percentage of Filipinos and Asians in their communities, they had to campaign on mainstream issues.  In other words, they can’t project themselves as Filipino-American candidates. “Mainstream candidates who happen to be Filipino-Americans” is easier to sell to the voters than “Filipino-American candidates.” 


In the past three decades, we have seen Filipino-Americans getting elected as Mayors and City Council Members.  In California, we have political trailblazers like Monty Manibog and Larry Asera.  Manibog was elected as Mayor of Monterey Park in Southern California where there were few Filipinos.  Asera was elected to the Sonora County Board of Supervisors in northern California.  Several others followed them – Gloria Megino Ochoa, Christopher Cabaldon, Henry Manayan, etc.  Ochoa was a member of the Board of Supervisors in Santa Barbara, California, and Christopher Cabaldon is currently the Mayor of West Sacramento.  Manayan was recently the Mayor of Milpitas, California, and was succeeded by another Filipino-American, Jose Esteves.  All of them, except Manayan and Esteves, have one thing in common: They ran for partisan office, and failed.  Manayan declared his candidacy for an Assembly seat, and if he wins he will become the first Filipino-American elected to a partisan office in California. 


What had prevented the others from getting elected in partisan contests?  How about those Filipino-Americans in other states who were successfully elected to partisan offices – David Valderama, Jon Amores, and Jeff Coleman, to name a few.  Perhaps Manayan can learn from them and forge his campaign to overcome the barriers that his predecessors tried to hurdle and failed.  Or is there a political glass ceiling in California that has yet to be broken by Filipino-Americans? 


I do have a clue as to what might break the political glass ceiling in California.  California is a state that is dominated by Democrats.  The Republicans have been perennially the minority party in California politics.  However, Republicans like Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been elected Governor in California.  Clearly, there is a solution to every problem.   


If Filipino-Americans in California do not get their act together, Michigan might just be the next state where Filipino-Americans can pierce the political glass ceiling and send a Filipino-American to the Michigan Legislature.  Michigan has 17,000 Filipino-Americans.  With 1.2 million Filipino-Americans in California, that’s a political gold mine that has yet to be mined.   



By Perry Diaz

Arnold-SchwarzeneggerThe inauguration of Arnold Schwarzenegger as California’s new governor was one of the most austere inaugural events in recent California history.  Actually, it was not an “inauguration” in the traditional meaning of the word.  It was a 45-minute swearing-in ceremony.  There was no Inauguration Ball that usually follows the day’s activities.  There were no fireworks and no fanfare.

Given the budget crisis that precipitated the Recall Election, Arnold chose to have a simple ceremony and get down to business right away.  After all, he made a promise to get something done before the end of Day 1, November 17, 2003.

I was fortunate to be invited to the “Inauguration,” as it was still referred to on the invitation – a one-page beige stock paper with the Great Seal of the State of California embossed in gold.  The event was held on the steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento.   There were folding chairs for about 3,500 guests and a standing-room space for another 4,000 guests.  Entry into the event was by-invitation only.  Again, I was fortunate to be issued a gold-colored ticket that placed me in the 1,000-seat-plus section in front of the swearing-in stage.  They divided the fenced-in area into Gold, Blue, Silver, Red and Green.  The Blue Section was on the left side of the Gold Section and the Silver Section was on the right side.  The Red and Green Sections were the standing-room space behind the Gold Section.

When I arrived at the swearing-in area at 9:00 AM, there was overcast on the sky.  I was just hoping that it would not rain.  We were instructed that if it rained, the swearing-in ceremony would be moved to the Memorial Auditorium, a half a mile away, which has a capacity of only 3,000 people.  I could just imagine the near-stampede that would have happened had it rained.

At 10:00 AM, the Musical Prelude started.  The drumbeats of the Sacramento Taiko Dan reverberated across the Capitol grounds and brought everybody’s attention to the entertaining style of the drummers.  The Jesuit High School Symphonic Band followed and played a few mellower tunes.  Following them were the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra.  Their vocal renditions of several popular songs were applauded.  Next came the Mariachi los Gallos dressed in their tight fitting outfit and donning their over-sized sombreros.  The 59th Army National Guard Band played several martial pieces.  The last performers were billed as “The Governor’s Own,” an apparent reference to a group of youngsters that have benefited from one of Arnold’s charitable projects.  The Musical Prelude lasted about 50 minutes.

At 11:00 AM sharp, just when the ceremony was about to begin, the sun came out of the overcast and cast a bright sunshine over the Capitol.  An older lady a few seats away from me murmured, “It’s a miracle.”   The Master of Ceremonies was Stan Atkinson — the retired popular Sacramento news anchor  – who commented upon seeing the bright sun, “Never mess around with Mother Nature.  And Mother Nature never messes around with the Terminator.”

The invocation was delivered by Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson who ad-libbed, “God must be lighting his way,” a reference to the brightly shining sun.  Arnold smiled.  Watching him, it seemed to me that the sudden appearance of the sun buoyed his spirits.

Vanessa Williams sang a stunning rendition of the “Stars Spangled Banner” and a score of young school children recited the “Pledge of Allegiance.”  The patriotic expressions were capped by the 59th Army National Guard’s Presentation of the Colors.

Maria Shriver, the new First Lady, followed and recited a heart-warming narrative by a popular storyteller.  The selected reading aptly described the dire state of the State; however, there is hope that things will get better.  It was an uplifting moment for Arnold to hear his wife exude optimism in the darkest period of California.

At 11:20 AM, the time for the transfer of power to Arnold came to pass. With his wife Maria at his side, Arnold placed his left hand on the Holy Bible and raised his right hand.  At that momentous occasion, Ronald George, California’s Chief Justice administered the new governor’s Oath of Office.

At 11:25 AM, Governor Schwarzenegger delivered his Inaugural Address.  Showing exuberance, he declared, “Today is a new day in California.”  He said that his victory was not about replacing one man, and it was not about changing political parties.  He said, “It is about changing the way we do things in government.”

He then proclaimed that before the end of the day, he would sign Executive Order No. 1 repealing the 300% car tax increase.  He said that he would work with both the State Senate and the State Assembly to legislate reforms in the Workers’ Compensation System.  And finally, he declared that he would initiate legislation to repeal SB 60, the law that allows illegal immigrants to acquire driver’s licenses.  He promised that we would appoint Republicans, Democrats and Independents to positions in government.

He said that California is in a crisis with the largest deficit in the history of the State.  He said that California has the lowest credit rating in the nation and the highest workers’ compensation in the nation.  He promised that he would do whatever it takes to resolve the problems of California.  He mentioned the wild fires that wreaked havoc in Southern California.  And he told Californians, “We will rebuild together.”

He told a story about the problems faced by the founding fathers in 1787 when they were gathered to decide what to do.  There was dissension and disagreement amongst them.  In the end, they were able to work together and completed their work.   He added that what happened then was referred to as the “Miracle of Philadelphia.”  He predicted that what is going to happen is a “Miracle in Sacramento.”

He concluded his address by saying, “I came to California with virtually nothing.  Today, I have virtually anything that I want.”  And he said in finality, “I have an immigrant’s optimism,” and he would do his best to do the job because “California is the golden state.”  He finished his address at 11:40 AM.  I believe that was one of the shortest inaugural addresses.

Rabbi Marvin Hier gave the Benediction.  And the 59th Army National Guard together with “The Governor’s Own,” played and sang “California, Here I Come.”

I left the Swearing-In Ceremony in a state of euphoria.  What transpired could be the turning point in California’s ability to survive its fiscal crisis.  And just like the movie “Total Recall,” Governor Schwarzenegger will do whatever it takes to terminate the problems of California, which – in his own words – is “the greatest state of the greatest country in the world.”



By Perry Diaz

In an unprecedented event, a large delegation of Filipino-American Republicans flew to Manila to root for President George W. Bush at the welcome ceremony in Malacanang during his state visit on October 8.  The Fil-Am Republicans belong to the National Movement of Filipino-American Republicans (NMFAR) who, in cooperation with the Endowment for Strategic Leadership for Asian Americans, Inc. (ESLAAI), joined the Tourism and Trade Mission sponsored by Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon.

It was quite a showing by the FILAMGOPers who were led by State Representative Jeff Coleman (the only Fil-Am in the Pennsylvania State Legislature and a FILAMGOP leader), Ernie Gange (ESLAAI Chairman and NMFAR East Coast Coordinator), and yours truly (NMFAR National Coordinator).  The other members of the group were Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio (New York State congressional candidate in 2004 and New York State FILAMGOP Chairman), Rebecca Coleman (Jeff’s lovely wife), Dolores Diaz (my lovely wife), Dr. Nancy Eugenio (California FILAMGOP Vice-Chair), Celly Carbonell (California FILAMGOP Vice Chair), Oscar Velasco (Long Beach Chapter FILAMGOP Chair and California congressional candidate in 2002), and Regina Velasco (Oscar’s beautiful wife).  Several other Fil-Am Republicans arrived separately with the NaFFAA and ACFV delegations – Gus Mercado and his group from Texas, Rose Brett and her group from Pennsylvania, Dr. Liveo Baldia and his group from Pennsylvania, Cecile Ramos ( Los Angeles Chapter FILAMGOP Chair), and Oscar Estioko from Vallejo, California.

As the presidential motorcade arrived in Malacanang, the more than 100 enthusiastic Fil-Am fans of President Bush stood along the red carpet rolled out for President Bush.  One Fil-Am Republican brought a “Bush-Cheney 2004” campaign placard and displayed it prominently during the ceremony.  President Bush was delighted at seeing the campaign sign and walked to the group and chatted with them.  As he passed our group, I shouted, “We’re from California,” to which he responded, “I was there yesterday!”

After the arrival ceremony, President Bush and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo went inside the palace for their talks.  The guests were treated to a Filipino barrio fiesta complete with freshly made nipa huts, a five-man rondalla band, and, of course, the delicious native dishes, desserts, and beverages.  The children of President Arroyo graced the outdoor event.

The state dinner for President Bush was billed as the best state banquets held in honor of a visiting head of state.  I was fortunate to be one of the ten Fil-Ams invited to the State Dinner.  The others were Representative Jeff Coleman and his wife Rebecca, Ernie Gange, Loida Nicolas-Lewis (NaFFAA Chair and CEO TLC Beatrice Holdings), Greg Macabenta (NaFFAA Vice Chair and Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Ang Pambansa), Eric Lachica (ACFV Executive Director), Nellie Birog-Naoe (ESLAAI Vice Chair and President), Emilio Casayuran (United Fil-Am Veterans), and Imelda Nicolas (New York businesswoman).

After the traditional exchanges of toasts by President Arroyo and President Bush — who wore a Barong — the 250 guests were served with an appetizer of Timbale of Pitik Pitik in Smoke Salmon with pink caviar and potato horseradish whip.  The main course consisted of Supreme of Lapu Lapu Fillet with smokey tomato salsa set on thyme flavored wild rice. The dessert was a Mousse of Chocolate and Expresso with Kahlua sauce and Guimaras mango balls.  And finally, a cup of Philippine Coffee and a variety of Pralines and Bulacan Pastillas.   I am not a food critique but this I can say: When it comes to the selection of food, the Filipino chef is par excellence.

The entertainment was world-class.  Lea Salonga, the superstar of the original Broadway musical Miss Saigon sang several songs accompanied by the Manila Philharmonic Strings.  Then the world famous Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company – founded in 1957 by Helena Z. Benitez, chairperson of the Philippine Women’s University — performed its signature Maranao suite, the Singkil, a Southern Philippine folk culture presentation.  The presentation started with the Maranao townsfolk gathering in colorful costumes and danced while an instrumental interlude of the kulintang (an arrangement of brass gongs) was being played.  Then, colorful vintas (fast sailing boats of the Maranaos) sailed by in full splendor and regalia.  The Princess arrived and was pursued by the Prince amidst the clapping of crisscrossing bamboo sticks in syncopated rhythm.  It was tantalizing!  Finally, after a series of rhythmic steps in and out of the fast-moving bamboo sticks, the Prince won the love and admiration of the Princess.  The performance was majestic!

At the conclusion of the state dinner, protocol broke down when President Bush, on his way out of the grand ballroom, mingled with the swarming guests.  He was mobbed as he shook hands and talked to the guests.  The secret service detail and the Malacanang security officers were helpless as the guests – mostly the ladies – grabbed his hands.  Cameras were not allowed inside (I checked in my camera at the door); however, cameras flashed.  I found out later that those were cellular phones with built-in cameras.  The crowd warmed up when President Bush kissed Gina De Venecia on the cheek, the lovely wife of Speaker Jose De Venecia.  At that moment, Mila Drilon, the lovely wife of Senate President Frank Drilon, asked, “What about me?”  The President obliged and kissed her too.

As President Bush passed through the door of the grand ballroom into the reception area, the Bayanihan dancers were already lined up and they started singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”  Obviously delighted at hearing the Texas State song, President Bush led the guests in clapping to the rhythm of the song.  At the conclusion of the choral rendition, President Bush approached the beautiful Bayanihan dancers and shook their hands and chatted with them. The bemused and giggling dancers milled around him.  He then asked for pictures to be taken of him and the dancers.  Again, cameras flashed capturing in posterity the smiles of Dubya and the lovely young Bayanihan ladies.  One congressman remarked, “He learned our ways fast.  Let’s run him for President.”  Another congressman quipped, “He’ll win by a landslide.”  The Filipinos once again displayed their genuine Pinoy hospitality at its best.  Only in the Philippines can you find such hospitality.

The partying continued outdoors at the barrio fiesta.  More food and beverages were served.  President Arroyo later joined the guests after seeing President Bush left Malacanang on his way to Singapore.

Clearly, President Bush has captured the hearts of Filipinos.  He left an unforgettable memory in the minds of Filipinos.  His warm personality and down-to-earth demeanor were qualities of a leader that Filipinos admire.  As a couple of Filipino-Americans in our group declared that day, “Today, we are all Republicans.”  I’ll drink to that.