High voter registration numbers in Michigan
Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons - Image source: michiganradio.org

To most of us, the onset of a new year comes to mind our new year’s resolutions. As for myself, I have been thinking of what better way can I pursue my community involvement in 2012. And I resolve to focus a bit more on my civic duty through political participation and involvement.

Many of us shy from politics because we always associate the word “politics” with partisanship. But politics is more than that. It also means political empowerment through the proper exercise of your right to vote and select the leaders who will decide on what direction our government will take.

We select the leaders whom we will entrust the responsibility of making decisions on issues that will affect us and our communities.

For 2012, I commit myself to assist in the efforts to revive the Filipino-American Vote or FilAm Vote in Michigan, which is a vehicle for civic and political participation. The FilAm Vote program, which was launched by the National
Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) a few years ago, is composed of the following components.

  1. Voter Registration, a program that aims to increase the number of eligible Filipino American voters.
  2. Voter Education, which allows Filipino Americans to learn issues affecting their everyday lives.
  3. Get-Out-The-Vote program that encourages Filipino-Americans to participate in the electoral process.
  4. Voter Protection that aims to ensure that the voters are free to exercise their choice.

All these four components are critical. It is important to register Filipino Americans to vote, but it is also equally important to make them understand the issues that will affect them as citizens.

Year 2012 is another important year for all of us because it is a presidential election year.

We should not make again the mistake of not participating in the election.

We have a very poor record on election participation. In the 2004 presidential election, only 594,000 Filipino Americans voted all over the US. The figures represent a decline of 7 percent, and this was partly due to the fact that 122,000 registered Fil-Am voters did not cast their ballots.

On May 13-15, 2011, leaders and members of NaFFAA headed by National Chairperson Ed Navarra gathered in Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, for strategic planning session to encourage Filipino Americans to be “politically engaged through political education.”

Gloria Caoile, co-chairperson of the National FilVote, said, “Potentially, there are 715,000 Filipino Americans or 40 percent of our total number who can be mobilized to go to the polls.”

The low percentage of Filipino Americans voting in US elections also reflects a very low population of Asian-American voters who consisted only 37 percent. This is very low compared to the voting-participation percentages of white adults and black adults.

There are several reasons why many Filipino Americans did not go to the polls.  One reason is that election was not relevant to us in personal terms. We did not have any connection to the issues presented during elections.

Do we really care, just busy  or just too shy to participate in the political discussions and electoral process in our community?

We do not want to be involved because we are just too busy with our jobs. We do not have time to volunteer for the efforts to urge our “kababayans” to get out and vote. To some people, this is a waste of our time.

They may as well send their extra money back to our homeland instead of donating it for a political cause.

But through FilAm Vote-Michigan, we may be able to correct the wrong notion and concepts about politics. And with on involvement with FilAm Vote, we are just doing our civic duty as citizens of our adopted country, the United States.

We will reactivate the core team in FilAm Vote Michigan to serve as a steering group tasked to undertake the four components  of its program — to register, educate, get people out to vote and protect voters during election.

We will be conducting, among others, workshops, voter-registration drives, telethons and “know your candidates” fora. We will involve the youth, specially students, in the efforts to pursue our objectives.

We will partner with other groups with similar goals and objectives like the APIAVote Michigan.

Civic participation and engagement are key to a vibrant democracy. I urge you to be politically involved in 2012.

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Willie is a teacher at the Detroit Public School. A very popular and influential leader in the Filipino-American community in Michigan, Dechavez is the incumbent Michigan state chairperson of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) and public relations officer of both the Filipino-American Community Council (FILAMCCO) and the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM). A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he is also vice president of the Bicol Association of Michigan. He is recipient of numerous awards.

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