By Jun Nucum
The campaign for Filipino American California state Assembly Member Rob Bonta to be appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom as Attorney General (AG) gained the support of a broad coalition of leaders from government, non-profit, labor, business, law, and grassroots organizations who got together in a recent video conference.
Organizations that include National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA); San Francisco Filipino American Chamber of Commerce; KAYA: Filipino Americans for Progress; Filipino American Democratic Caucus (FADC); Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats (PALAD); and Filipino American Democratic Club of San Mateo County saw Bonta as the most qualified candidate as the state’s top lawyer with a progressive track record in advancing criminal justice reform in the California Legislature, while enjoying a strong statewide support across key communities.
They see Assemblymember Bonta as a historic pick and a critical ally during a challenging time as California continues to advance social justice issues and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
California State Treasurer Fiona Ma (among the earliest Bonta endorser) said grassroots support is important for the Attorney General position just like what happened to US Vice-president elect Kamala Harris.
“Rob Bonta, has been a tireless supporter for AAPI that has been more evident during the pandemic when those with Chinese American descent have been discriminated against. He stood against the injustice and discrimination like many others in our community,” Ma reiterated. “The affiliation of his Filipino parents with the United Farm Workers further strengthened Rob Bonta’s solid representation in the Central Valley. His achievements as the first Filipino American in the legislature motivated and inspired more Filipinos and Filipinas to aspire to also represent us in Congress.”
In extolling Bonta’s gains as a champion for equality and equity, Ma also recognized Bonta’s supportive wife Mia who raised three children and is also president of Alameda School Board .
US Filipino American Congressman TJ Cox, stressed that the appointment of his friend and Pinoy brother Bonta will just be a win-win as Bonta worked both public and private side.
“He would give voice to the AAPI community which is so important that it provides the example to be what you can see. His base and representation is so important that if someone from the AAPI gets elected, the AAPI community gets more engaged and things will happen. This would be a momentous appointment that the Governor would be considering,” Cox acknowledged.
Cox also believes that, as AG, Bonta is going “to influence policy decision that is going to impact the AAPI community. Our needs (and) our voices will never be forgotten. I cannot express enough my enthusiasm in having him appointed.”. .
Alameda City Filipina Vice-mayor Malia Vella recalled that Bonta started his career as a legislator at the Alameda City Council as vice-mayor where he “fought for working families, addressed inequalities in the criminal justice system, championed tenants and immigration rights and addressed health care and consumer protection issues.”
“Assembly Member Bonta sponsored legislation that promotes and defends California values of justice, inclusion, equity and opportunity. His legislative accomplishments are both broad as well as far-reaching. He addressed certain issues in the criminal justice reform notably the end of the use of for-profit private prison and detention facilities in California, end of cash bail system that targeted minority communities,” Vella recalled.
Vella also mentioned that Bonta authored legislation that requires thorough independent and outside investigations for officer-involved fatal shootings of unarmed Californians and, most recently, authored legislation that stop people from racially weaponizing the 911 system. He also led efforts to ensure Californians are housed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA) President Kristy Gonowon said, “He is eminently qualified to be California’s chief legal officer notably when he received the National Asian Pacific Bar Association Daniel Inouye Trailblazer Award in 2015 garnering highest honor for his achievement, commitment and leadership of lawyers that paved the way for the advancements of other Asian Pacific American attorneys. He received it three years after now Vice -president-elect Kamala Harris got hers in 2012.”
NFALA has 16 affiliate Bar Associations including six in California some of which are the Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego, of Orange County, Filipino American Bar Association, the Filipino American Bar Association of California, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Silicon Valley, Monterey and Sacramento Filipino American Lawyers Association
Fellow lawyer Zathrina Perez, President of California Asian Pacific American Bar Association (Cal-APABA) an organization that represents some 14,000 AAPI lawyers statewide, recognized that “we are acutely aware of the importance that office of Attorney General holds at a time when our state and nation is hit by multiple crises and unprecedented attacks of our legal institutions and systems of justice.”
“Bonta has the qualification, skill and determination to face these challenges understanding the purpose, mechanics, and consequences of law which are all critical to being the state’s chief legal officer as he has substantial experience in getting justice and representing the interest of the people of California as an attorney,” Perez explained. “Bonta practiced law for 13 years after graduating from Yale University and, remarkably, has been undefeated as a trial attorney, never having lost a jury verdict for his clients thus earning a reputation among his colleague lawyers as an experienced and skilled trial advocate.”
The others who spoke, endorsed and expressed their undying support for Bonta’s appointment as Attorney General were Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, founding president, Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats (PALAD); Christian Edlagan, boardmember, KAYA; Filipino Americans for Progress, and Pat Fong Kushida, president and CEO, CalAsian Chamber of Commerce.