Student protester stands in front of Palma Hall at the University of the Philippines Diliman last year on International Women's Day. (Manila, Philippines) (Photo credit: Ronnie Estoque)

Filipino American Group Demands Workplace, Police Reforms From Biden Administration

by Ronnie Estoque

A coalition of groups representing Filipino Americans in 14 states is seeking to influence the Biden administration on a wide array of issues affecting the Filipino American community, including increased protections for Filipino health care workers who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) presented its list of demands at a virtual press conference Tuesday. Organizers of the agenda are submitting the Filipino American Agenda (FAA) within the next week to the White House Initiative for Asian American Pacific Islanders and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

In addition, the updated FAA seeks justice for Angelo Quinto, 30, a Filipino immigrant male living in Antioch, Calif., who died last December after being put in the same knee-to-neck hold that also killed George Floyd.

“We wanted to unite the Filipino American community, not only to engage with elected officials but to come together across the U.S. in the spirit of Bayanihan, to support and protect each other in increasing times of crisis, uncertainty, racism, and violence,” NAFCON President Terry Valen said.

A comprehensive list of the demands in the FAA can be viewed here, and focus particularly on workers’ and immigrant rights, youth and students, women, LGBTQ community, small business and property owners, educators, and foreign policy. A key component is protection for Filipino health care workers. 

On March 18, the National Nurses United released key findings that show that as of Feb. 11, 26.4% of registered nurses who have died of COVID-19 and related complications were Filipino, while they only make up 4% of registered nurses in the United States. 

“… we mourn that, we question that, and we are still fighting to this very moment,” frontline nurse and Malaya Movement member Kym Villamer said.

The FAA also is advocating for a more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines that prioritizes elders, health care and essential workers, and those in the community who may be immune-compromised.

One demand that the FAA has for the Biden-Harris administration is to “Hold police accountable in the cases of Angelo Quinto, Dennis Carolino, Toby Diller, and other victims of police brutality.” 

In February, Quinto’s family submitted a wrongful-death claim against the city of Antioch, specifically stating that his death was a consequence of unreasonable force by the police officers involved. According to the East Bay Times, Antioch police waited until Jan. 25, more than a month after Quinto’s death, to confirm the incident publicly in response to their media inquiries into this case.

“As a Filipino community we are still mourning but are demanding justice for Angelo and all victims of police brutality and violence,” Kabataan Alliance External Vice President Chrissi Fabro said. “Attacks on the API (Asian Pacific Islander) community are nothing new and have only heightened — we will continue to fight for justice and fight against systemic racism and racial violence.”

Immigrant and migrant worker rights are also on the agenda.

“Being undocumented is very scary, I know a lot of workers that experience that,” Migrante-USA member and labor trafficking survivor Lester Ramos said.

Ramos immigrated to the United States hoping to provide for his family back home in the Philippines, but soon had first-hand experience with labor exploitation by an employer. He has luckily been able to find support and community through the California-based Filipino Migrant Center. The FAA demands that hazard pay be implemented for all essential and health care workers and that workplaces have property COVID-19 measures in place.

The FAA is an initiative of  NAFCON, Kabataan Alliance, the Malaya Movement, the Filipino Community Center, and the Filipino Migrant Center and has been endorsed by hundreds of other Filipino organizations nationally. Organizers of the agenda will submit the FAA within the next week to the White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“The agenda [FAA] will serve as a platform to develop further campaigns and activities and advocacy locally but also at the national level,” NAFCON National Steering Committee member Nikki De Leon said.

Featured image: Student protester stands in front of Palma Hall at the University of the Philippines Diliman last year on International Women’s Day (Manila, Philippines). (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)

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