By Jun Nucum

Weeks before the election, top Bay Area Filipino American elected officials lent their powerful voices in support of a measure that will effectively repeal Prop 209 that was voted in the ballot by Californians in 1996.

Leading the proponents of the Prop 16 measure is 18th Assembly District of California representative Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American elected to the State Assembly who claims that Prop 16 will reverse a historical wrong “for us to face and fix the problem, to confront systemic and structural injustice and racism.”  The other Filipino elected officials with Bonta were Daly City Vice Mayor Juslyn Manalo and Alameda City Councilmember Maila Vella and they all made their support known In a webinar Fil Am Press Roundtable: YES on Prop 16.

“Prop 16 will provide opportunity and fairness, where there is lack of opportunity, lack of fairness and put us on the path towards greater justice, an opportunity for equity and inclusion and to remove a stain on California history via Proposition 209 that was brought about nearly 25 years ago by Governor Pete Wilson a Republican Governor and his party,” Bonta asserts. .

Bonta continued that there is much greater understanding, an  awakening for many and recommitment by many others in addressing issues of systemic instructional racism here in the State of California right now.

“What is required now is seize the moment and not squander the opportunity to make change and turn this moment into a movement that we turn into a durable lasting change. Prop 209 has been a problem in California for it reduced the opportunity for women and communities of color. We want to make sure that we grow opportunity for women and communities of color in public higher education and public employment. So yes on 16 is the way to do that,” explained Bonta

The Assemblymember also revealed that “our Filipino American community polled the highest among subgroups in support of Prop 16 but we need to make that vote count. We need to show up at the polls/ it won’t matter if we don’t vote.

California State 18th District Assembly member Rob Bonta

“This is an uncomfortable truth about the Filipino American community but we need to face and confront it in order to do better and to exercise the strength that we know we and we want to fully exercise and to stand up,” lamented Bonta. “We need to register to vote and we have not done that in numbers that we like as only about 50% of those eligible to vote have registered. Once registered, only about a little over 50% have actually voted and vote regularly.”

Bonta also clarified that it is wrong to say that prop 16 is something to create quotas which is unconstitutional and not allowed as race is not going to be a determining factor in this measure.

Daly City Vice Mayor Juslyn Manalo bats for Prop 16 for affirmative action as there is  need for more opportunities.

“Yes on 16 will push for that as there should be parity in pay. And in what has       transpired in the past months, the fight for equity, justice and respect, Prop 16 is another way to push for these.  We cannot dismantle systemic racism and sexism but Prop 16 is a concrete step towards removing the same by providing equal opportunity for all,” Manalo stresses.

Manalo echoed Bonta’s statement on the importance of the actual votes statewide and on the local level.

“Saying yes on Prop 16 means actually voting for it and not just showing support and leaving it at that and not actually voting by mail or in person. We need to have more opportunities for all through education. We’ve seen the inequities in hiring, housing, education and Prop 16 is definitely a step forward for equity and to right a historically wrong,” Manalo acknowledges.

For her part, Alameda City Councilmember Malia Vella believes that Prop 16 helps that create a pathway that would help women like me to get into office to learn to run a successful campaign and know what it looks like.

“Women of color are making about eighty cents for every dollar compared to men. Prop 16 is not only for racial equity but also gender equity. We also continue to face discrimination in hiring, employment, in contracting in government and in education,” revealed Vella. “This is about creating a level playing field for us and the children’s future. We saw that AAPI has seen a drop in admission in public universities like the Universities of California (UCs) after the ban is put into place.”

Alameda City Councilmember Maila Vella

Among the impacts of affirmative action ban are:

1) California is one of only 9 states that currently ban affirmative action. Other states include Washington, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Idaho;

3) Women and minority-owned businesses in California lose $1.1B annually in government contracts due to the ban on affirmative action – further exacerbating the racial and gender wealth gaps; and

3) California’s educator, healthcare, and first responder workforces still don’t reflect our state’s diversity. Implications to education, public health, and even criminal justice are far-ranging for people of color, among others..

Prop 16 would restore opportunity to:

1) reinstate affirmative action in public contracting, hiring, and education, and allow state and local government agencies to implement equal opportunity programs;

2) provide one more critical tool to tackle systemic racism and gender discrimination and advance equal opportunity for people of color and women in these key areas; and

3) Open up more economic opportunities for women and minority-owned business and educational opportunities for women and students of color — from pre-K to grad school, among others..

In a webinar Affirmative Action – Can It Reduce Racial & Ethnic Inequities? Organizd by the Ethic Media Services, President and General Counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Thomas Saenz, President and Founder of The Equal Justice Society, a national legal Eva Patterson and Chinese for Affirmative Action Executive Director Vincent Pan took turns in defending Prop 16 and pointing out the defects of the existing Prop 209.

Saenz argues that Prop 209 enacted in 1996 by 55% of California vote was misleadingly labeled as the California civil rights initiative and is a very divisive measure.  It was found out that 52% of all races voted no on Prop 209


“There was a dramatic drop in the number of African American and Latino students in the University of California campuses. Of the estimated 60% African American and Latino high school students, only about 29% make it to the as undergrads in UC campuses. That is the disparity that we continue to see in the State of California that we are not able to address because of Prop 209 and we seek to be remedied by Prop 16,” Saenz reported.

Patterson dispelled the common notion is that only people of color are poor as there are also white people that are.

“What affirmative action based on gender and race does is that it looks at the totality of African Americans and Latinos or Asian Americans or women of Native Americans and brings us all along and empirical work has been done to demonstrate that class–based affirmative action based on poverty does not desegregate based on race,” Patterson clarified .

To recall, California voters in 1996 passed Proposition 209 banning racial preferences in admission to public universities, inspiring similar changes in nearly a dozen states. This November, affirmative action is again on the ballot in California (Proposition 16) at a time of growing protests over racial injustice. Meanwhile opponents of affirmative action have challenged race-based preferences in the Supreme Court and last month the Department of Justice accused Yale of illegal admissions discrimination against white and Asian American students.