Masterminding Fil-Am political empowerment

Last of 3 parts

DALY CITY, USA – One election can turn allies into adversaries, especially when the stakes are historic.

And that has flustered Filipino American engineers of the voting shift in San Mateo County – from at-large or countywide to in-district – who have high hopes of  FilAms uniting behind one candidate, the first County Supervisor of Filipino descent. 

“I would be heartbroken if a Filipino did not get elected to the board next year,” Guy Guerrero, the spearhead of efforts behind the shift 5 years ago, told Rappler.

Am entrepreneur who has lived in California since the 1950s, Guerrero resides further south of Daly City, the heart of brewing hostilities between two council members seeking the seat to be vacated by a termed-out former fellow Daly City council member.

The Burlingame or District 1 resident has seen many political dreams rise and fall.  For someone who insists on being apolitical – he, in fact, sat on the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury tasked with reviewing and making recommendations on the conduct of the county government – Guerrero has become the voice of the Filipino American community through his constant commentaries in the county daily newspaper.

Sage to some and gadfly to others, Guerrero upped his political capital 5 years ago when he took on the then-silent attempt to shift how the county elects its top officials.

“I was angered when I saw the 2010 Census, and that San Mateo County's population was composed of 52% racial minorities and the members of the SMC Board of Supervisors were 100% white from as far back as anybody could remember,” he told Rappler, explaining how he got involved with his current pursuit.

“I began to ask questions,” he said, stating the obvious. He talked to his district supervisor, who had proposed the switch from countywide to in-district, but was voted down by his colleagues on the board  “despite recommendations from both the SMC Charter Review Committee and the sitting Civil Grand Jury in support the position.”

Guerrero’s motivation was boundless; his research, fruitful.

He learned that a civil rights lawyer was contemplating a lawsuit against San Mateo County for violation of the California Voting Rights Act precisely for the same reason incensing Guerrero.

“The countywide voting system so obviously harms the voting rights of minorities in San Mateo County,” he said.  He met with lawyer Robert Rubin several times to engineer a strategy.

As Guerrero pressed on, 3 Filipino Americans known in the political landscape either as bankrollers or candidates – Ray Satorre, Mario Panoringan, and Bradley Roxas – signed on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

All 3 concur with Guerrero that the candidate to beat would be Mike Guingona, the first Filipino American elected in, and 5-time mayor of, Daly City, and the seniormost council member in District 5.

“We would be defeating the object of our lawsuit (by voting against a Filipino candidate),” Roxas replied to Rappler, when asked recently which of the dueling Daly City council members he was supporting.

Satorre held no punches when he announced he had joined Guingona’s camp in April, after he took his oath as Daly City Planning Commissioner. Guingona swore him in.

"We can only attain empowerment if FilAms will be united and harmoniously reconciled," Satorre said, expressing his change of heart to this writer. "Other people will always divide and rule Filipinos (for their own agenda). Do we want to progress politically or do we want to be puppets?"

 With the primary a full year away, the campaign has sent flares online.

One hit piece accuses Canepa of complicity in bogus Tweets during a recent campaign. Canepa denied the charge and attributed it to “dirty tricks” out of “fear.”  

Guerrero swears he had nothing to do with the item. He did admit to forwarding the email to his contacts.

“My sole purpose is to see the day that the SMC Board of Supervisors reflect the demographics,” he said.  “My motives have nothing to [do] with business.  My civil rights have been violated.”

Guerrero, whose name is Spanish for warrior, has introduced his candidate to potential donors.  He has persuaded business owners to remove opponent's posters to be replaced by his bet at a strategic time.

"I'm convinced no one is more qualified than Mike Guingona for Supervisor," Guerrero said.  "His victory will prove Filipinos' mettle as politicians and as a people." –