August 2004

by Perry Diaz

There is a legislative bill — House Bill 1563 — submitted in the Philippine Congress which seeks to make “Filipino” as the primary medium of instruction in Philippine schools.  Sponsors of the bill wanted to replace English as the medium of instruction.  They believe that the use of “Filipino” — the national language — in the educational system would “better promote love of Filipino.”

“Filipino” — more appropriately “Pilipino,” or Tagalog as commonly referred to —  is the national language of the Philippines.  The letter “F” does not exist in the Tagalog alphabet.    Beginning in 1974, the medium of instruction  — except for a few subjects — was changed to Pilipino.  However, in 1991, the medium of instruction — except for a few subjects — was again changed to English. And now, again, some legislators want to revert it back to Pilipino.  One might ask, “Why? For love of Filipino?”  By the same token, “Is wearing the Barong Tagalog makes us love Filipino more and wearing the ‘Americana’ (western business suit) makes us love Filipino less?”  Does speaking in Pilipino makes us more Filipino?  Or, does speaking in English makes us less Filipino?”

The Tagalog-based Pilipino has been the Philippines’ national language since December 31, 1937 when the then President Manuel L. Quezon proclaimed Pilipino as the National Language.  Pilipino became one of the Philippines’ official languages along with Spanish and English. Did that mean that an Ilocano, for example, had to speak four languages including his native Iloko to be able to communicate during the American Commonwealth era?  Not necessarily.  In particular, Spanish — which became the official language from June 24, 1571  until the1987 Constitution of  President Cory Aquino which suppressed the official status of Spanish and stopped teaching Spanish in Filipino schools — was never the general language spoken by the Filipinos during its 416-year course.  However, English was learned by most Filipinos in the short time that it was introduced, thanks to the United States government for initiating a crash program to educate the Filipinos.  Within a generation, from the arrival of the “Thomasites,” thousands of Filipino teachers were trained to teach Filipino children with English as the medium of instruction.

What happened to the Spanish language?  Why didn’t the Filipinos, in general, learn to speak Spanish?  When King Charles V issued a decree on July 17, 1550, “to teach the indios (natives) in all the Spanish dominions the conqueror’s language,” it would have been presumed that the Spanish regime in Manila would have implemented the King’s edict.  However, the communication line between Spain and Manila was long and arduous.  To reach Manila from Spain, it involved sailing to Veracruz in Mexico, travel by land to Acapulco, and a galleon ride to Manila.  Las Islas Filipinas, as the Philippines was called then, was governed by the Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico).  His subordinate in Manila, the governor-general, had the authority to implement the King’s orders.  However, the Roman Catholic Church — particularly during the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) — had more power than the Spanish Monarchy.

In the Philippines,  the friars ruled.  They had absolute power over the people.  Several of the frailocratic functions were: supervision of education and religious activities, veto power over the decision of the gobernadorcillo (native administrator), banish people without trial, preside over the guardia civil (police force), and screen  recruits for military service.

According to, an Internet encyclopedia: “The most popularly held view as to why Spanish did not become the standard spoken language is that the Spanish authorities, in education, religion, and government, discouraged its use among the natives.  Another factor is education.  Less than 10% of the population reached the equivalent of graduating from college.  Lack of education made the language less familiar.”  By discouraging, or “forbidding,” the natives from speaking Spanish, “the Spanish authorities intended to keep the natives ignorant of the language to maintain control and prevent a unifying language.”  This “Rule and Divide” strategy proved to be an effective way of keeping order in the colony.  The Spanish authorities created an aristocratic class based on a feudal system and gave them titles and privileges including land ownership, education, and limited authority.  This elite landed class included Spanish Peninsulares (born in Spain), Spanish Insulares (born in the archipelago), mestizos and favored indios.

In 1863, Queen Isabela II decreed the establishment of public school system in all islands. In the 1870 Census, there were 4,500,000 Filipinos.  Those who spoke Spanish did not exceed 2.8% of the population.

Spanish which was the official language of Las Islas Filipinas for 299 years, only 126,000 out of 4.5 million Filipinos spoke Spanish.  The rest were deprived of the ability to speak the official language which was also the language of commerce.  At that time, Spanish was also the dominant language on earth.

The Filipinos today are fortunate to have two official languages — Pilipino and English. Pilipino and English  are also the Philippines’ languages of commerce.  And English is the universal language.   By keeping English as the medium of instruction in Philippine schools, it guarantees Filipinos the capability to go to any place on earth and speak the universal language.

Knowledge of English is key to the Filipino’s ability to land  a job anywhere in the world.  There are more than seven million Filipinos working in more than 100 countries.  Each day, 3,500 Filipinos are leaving their country for better pastures.  The seven billion dollars that they remit home each year is a boon to the Philippine economy.  And as the Filipinos continue to disperse around the world, the world continues to shrink into one global economy.

By reverting the medium of instruction back to Pilipino, English as a second language among Filipinos would die, within the same span of time it took Filipinos to learn to speak English — one generation.  And what is there to be gained?  “Promote love of Filipino?”  Filipinos already speak Pilipino.  Right now, they’ve got the best of two worlds.  Let’s keep it that way.

by Perry Diaz

Fifty-nine years after the end of World War II, the war records should already have been archived and every war veteran compensated for fighting for freedom.  Yet, in the halls of the cavernous United States Congress, there is a haunting air of uncertainty over the fate of a band of brown brothers who fought gallantly for the United States.

After 59 years, a debt of blood and honor has yet to be paid to the surviving Filipino veterans of World War II.  Their number is fast dwindling.  After all, they are now in their 80’s and 90’s.  Yet, they stood unbendingly proud when the World War II Memorial was dedicated during the Memorial Day celebration in Washington, DC this year.  The few who attended reminisced the period in their lives when they fought side by side with American soldiers fighting the Japanese forces in the Philippines.

After World War II, when they were just about to be given veteran benefits — just like the millions of American veterans — the United States Congress  gave them a sweeping slap on their faces and denied them the benefits.  The Rescission Act of 1946 remains to this day one of the most ignominious acts of the United States Congress.  And for 59 years, ignoring the plea of reason and fairness, the US Congress continues to deny the Filipino veterans their rights.

The Filipino-American community has been working hard to convince the US Congress that this is the right thing to do.  A good number of Congressmen, particularly those who served their country in time of war, have staunchly stood by the Filipino-American community.

The movement has steadfastly pursued the Filipino Veterans Equity bills for more than three decades.  There were times when the Filipino-American community itself was divided over certain issues on the equity bills.  However, this year, the Filipino-American community has finally come together as a united movement — one mission, one voice.

President George Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry gave their support to the Filipino-American community.  However, the bill — H.R. 677 — has yet to pass Congress.  I just received from Sonny Sampayan, an activist for the Filipino veterans, a set of information  identifying the supporters of the H.R. 677 in the US Congress.  Thanks to the fervent activism of Fil-Am community leaders, there are now 188 co-authors of H.R. 677.  The bill needs a total of 218 votes in the House of Representatives to muster passage of the bill.  We need 30 more congressmen to support the bill.

We can influence the election in several states and vote for congressional candidates who would support H.R. 677.  Florida, Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Hawaii, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington have large Filipino-American communities.

The time has come for all Filipino-Americans to use their votes on November 2, 2004 and support congressional candidates — regardless of party affiliation — who would support H.R. 677.   We need friends in Congress.  We are a community of more than three million Americans and we pay our taxes like everybody else.  But America — born out of man’s desire to be free and just — must be freed of injustice and give true meaning to what this country is all about.

The United States Congress, the sentinel of  justice and fairness for all Americans, has yet to measure up to its obligations, particularly to those who would sacrifice their own lives so that freedom and justice may live.  Thirty responsible members of Congress would redeem the august body’s reputation heretofore blemished with the injustice accorded to the Filipino veterans of World War II.

What price honor?  What price freedom?  They’re both priceless.  And that is why the United States Congress must do what is the only right thing to do and that is to give the benefits to every American veteran.  The Filipino veterans were Americans when they fought for America in World War II.  They deserve no less.

I urge every Filipino-American of voting age to register to vote.  Vote for those who would support H.R. 677.  And for those who would not support H.R. 677, let’s boot them out of office.  Equity now!

by Perry Diaz

The presidential election is not determined by popular vote.  The President and the Vice President are elected by the Electoral College which consists of 538 American citizens. “Hey, that’s a piece of cake,” you might say.  However, the presidential election of the United States is one of the most complicated process in electing the head of state of a nation.
The Primary Election is used to select the presidential and vice presidential nominees. Each state holds it own Primary to determine which candidates of the participating political parties would get the state delegates to their national conventions.  In most states, the popular vote percentage is used to allocate the number of delegates for each candidate.  An exception is California where the winner of each party takes all the delegates.  The Primaries are held at various times, the earliest being in Iowa followed by New Hampshire.
At each of the opposing political parties’ convention, the party delegates select their nominees for president.  Usually, the nominee for president chooses his running mate.

After the nominees have become their party’s official candidates, they or their parties submit the names of the Electors of the Electoral College.  In the General Election, held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, the voters vote for the Electors of their choice.  The ballot shows which candidate the Elector is representing.  The number of Electors from each state is equal to the number of US Senators (always 2) and the number of its Congressmen (changes every decade as determined in the Census).

The common strategy of the opposing candidates is to identify what is referred to as the battleground states.  These are the states that could swing either way on Election Day.  The other states are presumed as already carried by the presidential candidates.  Depending on how strong a state is in leaning towards a candidate is a key factor in whether to spend time and money campaigning in that state.  A good example is California.  It has the largest number of Electors — 55 — that represents almost 10 percent of the Electoral College.  Actually, whoever wins in California would get a whopping 20 percent increase over his opponents’ cumulative total.

Your initial reaction would probably be:  “California would be one humungous battleground state.”  With more than 36 million Californians, it’s a presidential candidate’s  dream of winning the state.  Is it then fair to assume that President George W. Bush and John F. Kerry will battle it out in California for the 55 electoral votes?   Not necessarily.

Let’s look at what happened in the past four presidential elections in California.  In 1988, then Vice President George H.W. Bush (the father) won the presidential derby in California.  At that time the Reagan Democrats were still pretty much in the Republican side.  However, in 1992, President George H.W. Bush sensed that the Democrats have overtaken the Republicans in voter registration and that the Reagan Democrats were not as enthused in voting Republican.  Several weeks prior to the election, President George H.W. Bush abandoned California and moved his political operations to the battleground states.  In 1996, Bob Dole, the Republican nominee abandoned California as well.  In 2000, George W. Bush campaigned hard in California.  Although George W. Bush lost in California, he won the presidency in the battleground state of Florida.

This year’s presidential election is so close that it could change direction at any time. According to the latest posting by the Electoral Vote Predictor 2004, the states that are considered as “Strong Bush” states are Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Alaska.   The states that are considered “Strong Kerry” states California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Hawaii, Vermont, Massachusetts,  Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and District of Columbia.  States that are considered as “Weak Bush” states are Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, and South Carolina. States that are considered as “Weak Kerry” states are Washington, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Florida.  The “Battleground States” are Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maine. These predictions are based on polls conducted periodically on each state.

If the predictions are accurate, then the 12 battleground states with a total of 99 electoral votes would determine who will be the next president.  It would be likely that California, with its large electoral votes, would be placed in the back burner unless a miracle happens and President Bush would be able to sway California to his side.  It is more likely that his campaign would concentrate on the battleground states.  Of the 12 battleground states, five states — Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia — with a total of 45 electoral votes are slightly leaning to Bush.  The other seven battleground states — Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Maine — with a total of 54 electoral votes are slightly leaning to Kerry.

How will the Filipino-American vote fit into the scheme of things.  The five states with the largest number of Filipino-Americans are California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois.  These are “Strong Kerry” states.  Based on the 2000 Census, the cumulative total of Filipino-Americans in these states is 1,571,447 of which 50 percent — 785,000 — are presumed to be qualified voters.

The 12 battleground states have a cumulative total of 194,714 Filipino-Americans.   That’s roughly 94,000  Filipino-American qualified voters.  Nevada and Virginia each  have 23,000 Filipino-American qualified voters followed by Arizona with 13,000.  These battleground states are slightly leaning to Bush; therefore, Bush needs the Fil-Am votes in these three states to safeguard his narrow lead.  Conversely, Kerry could sway the Fil-Ams to his side and carry these states.

Seven battleground states are slightly leaning to Kerry.  Wisconsin has 12,000 Filipino-American qualified voters, Oregon has 9,000, Missouri has 7,000 and Minnesota has 6,000.  Kerry needs the Fil-Am votes in these states to safeguard his small lead.  If Bush would be able to sway the Fil-Am voters to his side, he could carry these states.

In 2000, President Bush won by 537 votes in Florida and won the presidency by a margin of only seven electoral votes.  Whoever would get the Fil-Am vote in seven battleground states — Nevada, Virginia, Arizona, Wisconsin,  Oregon, Missouri and Minnesota — with a total of 66 electoral votes  would be in a good position to win the presidency. With 1.2 million Filipino-American qualified voters in the entire United States, less than 100,000 Filipino-Americans could influence the outcome of the presidential election on November 2, 2004.  That’s power .  Let’s use it.