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CHICAGO — Some politicians may easily give up after losing in one try. Not in the case of Filipino-American optometrist Jennifer Ong, who lost by 2,278 votes to Bill Quirk in the election for the 20th district seat of the California Assembly. Ong got 44,016 votes compared to Quirk’s 46,294 votes.

“My campaign team’s ability to overcome the odds in running against four elected officials in June was already an unexpected victory,” Ong said in an email to this columnist. She was referring to her victory in the June 5, 2012 open primary that set her up for a battle against Quirk in the general elections last Nov. 6.

Her unexpected strong showing against Quirk is considered a bonus as she “gained support from diverse communities such as the Taiwanese community, the Sikh community and our volunteers from the disabled community, to mention a few (who) allowed us to meet yet another goal: to engage new voters and those who have been disengaged and jaded by politics.

“A most special thank to KAYA members Genevieve Jopanda, Michael Pangilinan and Erin Pangilinan, our FilAm volunteers Benjamin Gonzalez, D’Artagnan Twomey, Michelle Marqueda and Jennifer Twomey as well as NAFCON leader Rico Foz.

“I am determined more than ever to continue to work hard to serve the public and encourage leaders from underrepresented communities to realize their potential.”

Her loss never dampened her dream to become the first Filipino- American lady to be elected member of the California state assembly.

The first Filipino-American gentleman to be elected member of the august body goes to incumbent Alameda, California Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, who won the 16th district seat.

Bonta must be very busy receiving calls congratulating him so much so that he did not  return the call of this columnist the day after the Nov. 6 elections.

On the stake of the Filipino World War II veterans in the elections, it seems their cries for fairness and equality are not fading away.

Although big Filvet supporter Rep. Bob Filner (D-50th district) had bowed out of US Congress after he became the new mayor of San Diego, another eminent Filvet supporter, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco), who introduced the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011, has cemented her hold on her 14th district seat, clobbering her rival, Debbie Bacigalupi, with a vote ratio of 3-1.

Another Filvet supporter, Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI-2nd district), has kept her ability to effectively promote the cause of the Filipino veterans when he was elected new senator of Hawaii, a post vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who is also a big backer of the Filipino veterans.

Aside from supporting Speier’s Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, Senator-elect Hirono also introduced the “Filipino Veterans of World War II Family Reunification Act” (H.R. 2115) that exempts the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans from immigration quotas. This act has speeded up the issuance of US immigrant visas to the veterans’ children.

Aside from Hirono, another senator on the other side of the aisle, who is another backer of the Filipino veterans, is Senator Dean A. Heller of Nevada, who introduced the Senate version of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act (S. 3530). Heller was elected as Nevada senator. The bill “would establish a process for Filipinos who fought alongside US soldiers during World War II and have documentation to work with military historians so they can receive proper benefits for their service.”

There are some 24,000 Filipino veterans who applied for recognition and benefits under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But their applications were turned away because their names could not be found in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Heller’s bill complements Speier’s Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 that is co-sponsored by another Nevada Republican, Rep. Joe Heck, who also won reelection in the 3rd district last Nov. 6.

Heck has earned the distinction of having delivered eulogies twice on the floor of the US Congress to pay tribute for Filipino World War II veterans Augusto R. Oppus and Cmdr. Francisco “Frank” Cedula who both died recently.

Heller defeated in the polls another supporter of the Filipino veterans, Rep. Shelley Berkley, who also co-sponsored Speier’s Filipino Fairness Act of 2011.

As an icing on the cake for the veterans, Chris Lu, assistant to the President, Cabinet secretary and co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, issued a last-minute announcement to get the votes of the 3.4 million Filipino Americans, launching an Interagency Working Group comprised of officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Archives and Record Administration.

The group was “tasked with analyzing the process faced by these Filipino veterans in demonstrating eligibility for compensation in order to ensure that all applications receive thorough and fair review. This is part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing efforts to honor the contributions of all veterans in their service to our country.”

With the reelection of President Obama, I hope that the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 and the Filipino Veterans of World War II Family Reunification Act (H.R. 2115) will sail smoothly through Congress while the few surviving claimants are still alive.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.


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