US elections: Fil-Ams cross party lines, make hard choices
SAN FRANCISCO, USA – The raucous, divisive campaign for president of the United States ends on November 8, with the election of the new leader of the free world.
Who cares about this tight race?
Definitely Filipino Americans, among over 146 million registered voters, including those who have already mailed their ballots or personally voted before Novermber 8, Election Day.
Fil-Ams have a major stake in this election because the outcome would affect their efforts to reunify with their families from the Philippines, their health coverage, retirement benefits, and status as citizens with equal rights as every other American. (READ: 'Filipino Americans and the US elections: What's on their mind?')
The historic ties between their native or ancestral country and their adopted one hang in the balance, with the Philippine president cozying up to China. His threats to "divorce" the United States might be fulfilled under a US counterpart less cognizant of the archipelago's strategic value.
How Fil-Ams will vote seems anyone's guess in this year's contest.
Do you think party affiliation dictates their choice? Think again.
Osmeña changes her mind
"I typically don't have this much trouble casting my vote," admitted Cristina Osmeña, a registered Republican or "someone who wants lower taxes and less regulation."
The former Wall Street worker had considering being disloyal to the Republicans by voting for a woman to be president, until the FBI revived a probe into the email scandal against Hillary Clinton.
Osmeña said that jolted her. "People who stay in power too long, no matter what side of the aisle, act a little more entitled than is appropriate. The power fest needs to be broken up before they start acting like an oligarchy," said the mother of 3 and daughter of former Philippine senator Serge Osmeña.
The Hillsborough resident considers "national security, systemic risks to our economy, and social tolerance" as the most pressing issues the new president will need to address. The other Fil-Am concerns, she said, are "President Duterte's position on United States-Philippines relations" along with "potential large moves in the dollar/peso exchange rate and racial tolerance."
So Osmeña is writing in Evan McMullin for president for what she views as his social conservatism and "detailed, reasonable solutions to the problems he's identified."
US presidential elections are determined by the electoral vote. Each of the 50 states represents a number of electoral votes, totaling 538. California, traditionally Democratic or "blue," has 55, the highest number of electoral votes.
The Golden State is home to the largest Filipino population with 1,195,580 residents or 3.2%, according to the US Census, but it is a diverse population leaning progressive up north and conservative further south.
Crossing party lines
In Southern California, 3 generations of a family in Glendora that have supported the Grand Old Party for 20 years also is crossing party lines this time. Its matriarch, Pilar Kierulf, is definitely not a fan of the Obama administration, but she is voting for Clinton "because we have no choice.”
Her party bet is inexperienced on top of being boorish, complained the 91-year-old. But she has no qualms with this decision, because "California is heavily Democratic" anyway and "so I can be as idealistic as I want in my vote.”
She sees eye to eye with her granddaughter Kimberly Sitcharungsi, 24, a Republican who is checking Clinton's name on her ballot like her fellow Republican dad Vibul Sitcharungsi, a Thai-American and honorary Filipino having married into a large and tightly-knit Spanish-Danish-Filipino American family originally from San Juan City, Metro Manila.
"What's most important is to have an effective president who has the experience and temperament to address the economy and foreign policy- especially jobs," said Elizabeth Kierulf Sitcharungsi, Kimberly's mom.
"There is no way I can vote for Trump," said the Los Angeles paralegal, who claims to get post- traumatic stress disorder upon hearing the GOP nominee proclaim "Make America great again.”
"That was the slogan of Ferdinand Marcos when he declared martial law in the Philippines," reminded Sitcharungsi, who broke ranks with her mother, daughter and husband one reason: Clinton is pro-choice. Sitcharungsi said she will write in Stein, about whom she knows nothing, not even the candidate's stance on reproductive rights. "But I know Clinton's position and that's enough for me not to vote for her.”
Filipino Americans are an immigrant community and thus tilt liberal – open to spending on social services, right? Not quite.
Most Fil-Ams are Catholic, faithful to the Church even on political matters. That's why for retired accountant Rosie Robles Paulino of South San Francisco and the popular hairdresser known everywhere as Raffy "G" (Garcia) of Daly City, California – both Republicans – are voting for their party nominee.
"My Christian beliefs make it hard for me to choose because I have questions about both major candidates," said Paulino, a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. "However I will vote for the candidate who is pro-life.”
Garcia sees no separation of Church and State: "As a Catholic, my choice is Trump: We share the same Christian values.”
But devout Catholic and San Francisco resident Nellie Hizon considered her decision and arrived at a different conclusion.
"I probably will still vote for Hillary who has the demeanor and stature of a strong leader, then be vigilant about legislation issues," said the recipient of the Benemerenti Award, the highest papal honor given to non-clergy for service to the church. "After all, the (reproductive health) 'choice' rests on the individual, and is not mandated.”
If elected, Clinton would "be in the Executive branch and will have get the two other branches – the Legislative and the Judiciary – to effect pro-choice as law," said the registered Democrat.
"I do not want to be a one-issue voter," said the coordinator of the Simbang Gabi tradition now observed in 44 parishes in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. "I need to examine my priorities and reconcile these. Definitely not voting for Trump, who does not meet my criteria of a leader.
Hizon wants the next president to stimulate the economy by offering tax incentives and job opportunities; respect religious liberty and protect its subordination to "political correctness"; and protect US borders and restructure immigrant categories.
Baby Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, including Filipino Americans, comprise the biggest demographic in the United States.
Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65, therefore eligible for Medicare, the federal health insurance system. The entitlement is not free unless beneficiaries are qualified for Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance that supplements Medicare for low-income recipients.
Eligibility for Medicare is determined by the Social Security Administration, which awards the retirement pension to those who have worked specific number of quarters and may begin collecting at age 62.
Long-term availability of those entitlements are paramount to just-turned-65 Danny Aclan, a retired engineer, and his wife the former Malou Joson, a registered nurse.
Daly City residents are concerned about the sustainability of Social Security funds not just for themselves but for their sons Khristian, also a registered nurse, and Daniel, a future dentist. And yet, the Aclans expressed concern that the next president should focus on legalization of undocumented immigrants flooding in from nations besieged by civil unrest and terrorism.
"They contribute to the economy of this country by paying taxes and taking jobs others consider lowly. They deserve to be comparative compensation and equal treatment as other immigrants. It's a human rights issue," said the Aclans, Democrats who announced they are proud to vote for Clinton.
Their younger son Daniel Aclan, 26, Class 2012 in BS in Human Biology at University of California Santa Cruz works at a bio-pharmaceutical firm.
Health matters as much as the economy to the millennial – those born between 1982 and 2004 – who also ponders the "disconnect between Filipino Americans and their native culture." He has voted for Clinton to be the commander in chief.
Also 26, Bernardo Nieva Simon Jr., said he admires Clinton's "respect and pride for democracy" and will vote for her to continue the "steady social achievements and progress that Barack Obama has begun.”
Newly transplanted from Chicago to Northern California, the Apple employee is not blind to Clinton's "controversial emails." Still, "BJ" believes "she can prevail in leading the country towards further social growth, especially for my generation.”
Like most of his peers who catapulted progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to a heartbeat away from the Democratic nomination, Simon is keen on the next president immediately addressing climate change, population growth and lack of education here and in developing countries. The son of a Filipina mother and Cuban father, the psychology graduate wants action on social and economic injustice he said trigger "gender, race and economic inequality.”
Artist and architectural designer in Minneapolis Joshua Castañeda Ong is no fan of Hillary Clinton but has her name on his ballot "because she is the lesser of two evils.”
"I despise Hilary Clinton's track record as Secretary of State. And I also dislike how she's pretty much just going to maintain the status quo as can be seen in her latest response to the Dakota Access Pipeline, in which she said nothing," said the 26-year-old who is unhappy with the country's two-party system. "However, the alternative is Donald Trump, who is the personification of toxic masculinity, racism, xenophobia, corporate greed, and pretty much everything wrong with the US.”
The former Chicagoan challenges his fellow former Illinois resident Clinton to end "institutional racism, income inequality and uninhibited corporate greed and influence.”
Ong's parents Ramon, an engineer, and Zita, an optometrist in Chicago, are more forgiving of their son's candidate, counting on her resume to protect their and every immigrant's American Dream of a life of equal opportunity to achieve success through hard work.
"I feel this presidential election has transcended party affiliation," said Jose Antonio, vice president with Union Bank, a registered Democrat who feels that his party ideology is "more important now than ever.”
This election "has now come to voting for who you think can keep this country great and looked up to by the other countries," he reclaimed the opposite candidate's battlecry, "someone who is an advocate for the underprivileged, minorities, women and children.”
Assessing the ideal candidate is a no-brainer for the "Gen X'er," the population born before 1965 and 1984.
"Clinton has the qualities, attitude, and experience to run a government," he told this writer. She, too, could best address the most critical issues "facing the United States that specifically affect the Filipino American community- immigration, minimum wage and equality," said the San Jose, California resident.
For Antonio's fellow Pampanga native Oscar Quiambao of Hayward, California, the answer is simple.
"We don't want another Duterte," said the entrepreneur: "We're voting Hillary." – Rappler.com