The mounting violence and racism against Asian Americans, including Filipinos, in various parts of the US are deeply troubling.
Reports said that from March 2020 to February 2021, some 3,800 incidents of physical assault, verbal harassment, and other forms of discrimination against the Asian American community, mostly against women, have been reported.
In early February this year, a Filipino American Noel Quintana was slashed on his face with a box cutter in a New York City subway. Another Filipino American, 74-year-old Juanito Falcon, was punched in the face in Phoenix, Arizona who later died of his injuries. A Filipina American medical worker was also attacked in a train station in San Jose, California, as the assailant reportedly hurled expletives about her Asian ethnicity.
Our Philippine Embassy in Washington led by our friend Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez had earlier reminded our fellow Filipinos in the US to be extremely cautious following the vicious incidents. The embassy also called on US authorities to ensure the protection of Asian Americans, including Filipinos, in the midst of hate crimes which have been reportedly increasing rapidly since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
President Joe Biden himself condemned the soaring hate crimes against Asian Americans, following the mass shooting last week in the state of Georgia which killed six women of Asian descent.
Biden urged the US Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to combat the physical assault, verbal attack, and discrimination on account of race and ethnicity.
The US is home to more than four million Filipino Americans, with the largest community in California, Hawaii, and New York. In California, the Filipinos comprise the biggest population of Asian Americans.
According to Pew Research Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank, the “Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters out of the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States.” The research group said the Asian American community has 11 million voters, “making up nearly five percent of the nation’s eligible voters.”
The Asian American community can harness their growing political influence to help shape national policies and advance common causes.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos celebrated his 93rd birthday last March 18.
A hero of the EDSA People Power Revolution, FVR served our country with great distinction, as a military officer who eventually became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Secretary of Defense, and President of the Philippines.
Even after serving as President, he continued to serve our country, our Asian region, and the international community, advancing the causes of peace, security, democracy and development, among others.
He and this columnist, together with the late Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus, father of Christian Democracy in Asia, founded the Lakas-NUCD-UMDP (National Union of Christian Democrats-United Muslim Democrats of the Philippines), now Lakas-CMD (Christian Muslim Democrats), which became then former Defense Secretary Ramos’ political vehicle which catapulted him to Malacanang in 1992.
We were also privileged to have been elected twice as Speaker of the House of Representatives, from 1992 to 1995, and from 1995 to 1998, during the Ramos presidency.
The Ramos and De Venecia families’ ties go back many decades. Before the outbreak of World War II, our respective fathers, who were lawyers, both worked in the law office of Don Teofilo Sison, who became governor of Pangasinan, senator, and secretary of defense during the Philippine Commonwealth.
Narciso Ramos eventually became a congressman and foreign affairs secretary, while my father, Jose de Venecia Sr. served as provincial fiscal then the only Judge-at-Large in the entire Bicol region, then promoted as Judge of the Court of First Instance (CFI) in Nueva Vizcaya.
Many years later, in the mid-1960s, FVR and we crossed paths again in then South Vietnam. We were Presidential Assistant and assigned as Minister and Economic and Press Counselor at the Philippine Embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and Ramos, an Army Major, with the Philippine Civic Action Group (Philcag).
The Philcag had no combat duties, only civic action and engineering work, building roads, bridges, markets and hospitals but shielded by its own Security Battalion, and largely deployed in Tay Ninh province on the Cambodian frontier.
It was also in Vietnam where we met Captains Jose Almonte, who became National Security Adviser under Ramos; Renato de Villa, later Defense chief; psywar expert and civic action leader Jose Magno; Thelmo Cunanan, one of the rare Filipino West Pointers, who became a General, and later, a highly-regarded Ambassador to Cambodia, married to noted columnist Belinda Olivares-Cunanan; and Lieutenants Lisandro Abadia and Arturo Enrile, who later became heads of the Armed Forces, and many distinguished others.
We remember that whenever we visited the Philcag headquarters in Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border, FVR would always remind us to put on our fatigues and a helmet, as the Vietcong snipers could spot us from several hundred meters away.
President Ramos and we are now in our senior years. We are most grateful to our fellow Pangasinenses and the Filipino people for giving us the opportunity to serve our beloved county, indeed a great honor and privilege and which we shall always cherish up to our age today at 84.
We also always tell our wife Gina, son Congressman Christopher and other children in the US and at home to thank the Lord every day for the gift of life.