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NaFFAA to boost political clout, set up priorities

naffaa-p-1-photo.gif WASHINGTON D.C. – The board of the National Federation of Filipino Americans Associations (NaFFAA) convened at the Philippine embassy here Nov. 22 and agreed to redefine its role and set up priorities for 2009.
Presided over by newly-elected national chair Greg Macabenta, the board listed among its top priorities as expanding the membership base, broadening advocacy in relation to key community needs, achieving financial stability, providing institutionalized member-community services and strengthening coalitions.
Hosting the planning meeting, which was attended by more than 50 board members, observers and community leaders from NaFFAA’s 12 regions, was Capital Region officers led by Nony Abrajano, Maurese Owens, Gloria Caoile and Bing Branigin.
“When NaFFAA was formed 11 years ago, the idea was not to create an umbrella organization but to establish links among various autonomous national and local groups in order to harness our collective strength,” Macabenta said.
“As national chair, I don’t consider myself as ‘the boss’ but the coordinator, integrator and facilitator so that we as Filipino Americans can speak as one clear, powerful voice to government, business and the American mainstream.”
NaFFAA, he pointed out, was built on “the fundamental principles of autonomy, inclusiveness, synergy and strategic coalitions. We need an attitudinal change about how we relate to other organizations so that they see that being part of an alliance strengthens our collective interests.”
As part of the decentralization process, the proposed and the board approved a revenue-sharing arrangement that allocates 80 percent of any monies raised to the regions.
Also approved was the creation of a separate political action committee that would allow NaFFAA to endorse candidates for public office, raise funds and contribute to political campaigns. Macabenta said this will give NaFFAA greater political clout. “But to comply with IRS rules, this formal entity has to be separate from NaFFAA organizationally.”
The impressive voter turn out by Filipino Americans in the last presidential elections prompted renewed support by NaFFAA to an on-going voter education and mobilization program. Gloria Caoile, FilVote co-chair, cited successful voter registration drives this year in Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida .
Filipino young professionals, led by former NaFFAA National Youth Chair Dexter Ligot-Gordon, offered to share lessons from the Filipinos for Obama campaign, notably its field program in building a data base to raise money and mobilize electorally. Now called FilAmVote, this national non-partisan voter program is now headed by Merit Salud, a Democrat from New York , and Emraida Kiram, a Republican from Wisconsin Gordon heads up FilAmVote’s youth component.
Macabenta also alerted NaFFAA officers to be actively engaged and ensure that Filipinos are not undercounted. “We are now 4 million strong in the U.S. today,” he said. “It’s critical that we are accurately counted so that underserved sectors in our community are properly recognized.”
He also stressed the need for NaFFAA to forge alliances with mainstream organizations to broaden its presence in the US.
Ben de Guzman, newly-appointed NaFFAA permanent representative to the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), emphasized the importance of “being at the table” with coalition partners, such as the Asian American Justice Center and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, particularly in influencing public policy. He cited advocacy for Filipino Veterans equity and immigration reform as examples.
Matteo Fernandez, a youth leader from Los Angeles, pointed out the need to provide a structure for young professionals. “Many of them are well-positioned in corporations and they can direct us to much-needed resources to fund our programs,” he explained.
“The synergy of these leaders who gathered this weekend to get NaFFAA moving forward is wonderful,” said NaFFAA National Vice Chair Rozita Lee. “The spirit of ‘Yes, We Can’ is very encouraging.”

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