Mar Roxas supporter Loida Lewis addresses San Diego pundits

Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis with members of NaFFAA and the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of San Diego on April 11 in Mira Mesa, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Wm Peetom, vice president & COO of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of San Diego)

By Anna Ven Sobrevinas

SAN DIEGO – Philanthropist and lawyer Loida Nicolas Lewis recently enthralled a crowd of political pundits and civic leaders with a lively talk on history, current presidential candidates and Daang Matuwid.

“Who will you vote?” said Lewis, relating an encounter with a taxi driver in the Philippines.

“Who else?” said the taxi driver. “One’s a thief, the other’s a murderer, the other is an American woman, and the other one has cancer. Mar it is!”

“This taxi driver has wisdom!” exclaimed Lewis. “I know that God will not allow somebody that flawed to be our president or vice president. I still have faith.”

Set up by Aurora Cudal and Myrna Reyes of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) Region 10, the town hall meeting at The Filipino School in Mira Mesa, was set up to educate and update attendees on the current state of the May 9 elections in the Philippines.

“I am glad because it is so hard to gather everyone in one place on a (week) night,” said Reyes. “It was actually a challenge for us to put together this event in five days, but with Lewis’ name, it’s a sold out.”

Reyes set the tone of the night with an interesting geographical comparison.

“Anything below the axis is hot, such as the Philippines, so politics is a very hot issue right now especially with the election coming next month,” she said. “Everyone talks about it on social media, even our friends, on who we should vote.”

With an interactive audience, Lewis, founder and president of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), delved into President Noynoy Aquino’s Daang Matuwid and its tenets of transparency, accountability and integrity.

“Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap,” said Lewis.

A supporter of presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Lewis said the mark of Roxas’ family – from his grandfather, former President Manuel Roxas to his father, former Senator Gerry Roxas – is pure honesty and all work.

“Mar Roxas is the only person I know who has no record of corruption whatsoever,” she said. “No corruption, do your work, public service. Believe me, if you are in power, it is so easy to get rich. It is so easy to make “cash-sunduan” or commission, very easy.”

The following day, Lewis also held a meeting – “Bayan Matuwid!” – at the San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista.

“In the past five years of PNoy, he was able to prove that by having integrity, accountability and transparency in government, we could rise up economically and internationally for our people,” she said.

Lewis reported the BIR’s collection last year totaled PHP 1.5 trillion, compared to the prior highest income tax revenue at PHP 890 million due to the unfailing efforts of commissioner Kim Henares. She talked about 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), a conditional cash transfer program, as having given PHP 1,500 to 4.4 million poor families. She also added that the budget for infrastructure such as bridges, hospitals, schools and airports, has risen from PHP 157 billion to PHP 570 billion.

“For the first time ‘yan,” she said. “How did it happen? Because of Daang Matuwid.”

As a proponent of Ro-Ro (Roxas-Robredo), she said the team-up, especially Roxas’ candidacy, is PNoy’s figurative continuation of his governance.

“Six years is not enough,” she said. “PNoy should be elected a second time but the constitution prohibits him, and so he said my second term is Mar Roxas and my third term is Leni Robredo. That’s why Ro-Ro, Roxas-Robredo. We row our boat to the top.”

In the Philippines, she said the socio-economic class is ABCDE, with A being very rich and E as very, very poor.

“We have more Ds and Es and because of that, they are more attracted to candidates that are actors, children of actors; candidates that have a wow factor and drama,” she said. “For now, that is the political landscape and it is unfortunate. Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo have no drama, just work.”

Democrat Patrick Ambrosio said there are several similarities to the U.S.’s and the Philippines’ presidential elections. He is a pledged delegate candidate for Hillary Clinton for the 53rd Congressional District at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this July.

“I agree with Atty. Lewis,” said Ambrosio. “It is amazing to see that our two cultures have these unique situations that place the focus of getting voters to the polls with a clear appreciation for the history of Fair Political Practices and the messages that each party hopes to support.”

This year’s first quarter Social Weather Survey on the presidential race showed Rodrigo Duterte leading with 27 percent. Grace Poe scored 23 percent; Jejomar Binay, 20 percent; Roxas, 18 percent and Miriam Santiago with 3 percent.