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Panahon Na! Kahapon Pa!:
Considerations and Solutions on the
Formation of a Truly National Organization

Position Paper Presented at the
Filipino American National Empowerment Conference
August 22-24, 1997
Washington, D.C.


The declaration of martial rule in the Philippines in 1972 proved destructive not only to our people in our ancestral home but also to our communities overseas. In the United States, the Filipino American community was somehow divided between two camps: the pro-Marcos and the anti-Marcos.

But since the removal of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986, the Filipino American unity movement which fizzled was suddenly breathed new life. Thereafter, it seems that organizations propped up all over the mainland United States and called on each other to renew the work which was started during the civil rights struggles of various minorities in the turbulent 1960s.

Eleven years since the historic People Power revolution, as it is commonly referred to, Filipino American community still lacks a unified voice to represent itself on a plethora of issues affecting them as one of the fastest growing Asian American ethnics. Currently estimated at over 3,000 organizations strong and catering to diverse interests and characteristics, we need to form an alliance promoting solidarity and cooperation in order to achieve one voice for Filipino America. Likewise, in order to better serve this one voice approach, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations or National Association of Filipino Americans (NFFAA or NAFA and herein referred to as the Organization), suggested names for this national organization, shall affiliate all of currently-existing organizations.

The Organization shall be cognizant of the following parameters:

  1. Respect the autonomy of existing organizations.Filipino American community is rich in terms of the number The national, those which will be established in the future. These local, and regional organizations currently existing and organizations shall remain the Organization in respect to their organization’s autonomous and shall not be held accountable to direction and day-to-day activities.
  2. Will not duplicate the functions of existing organizations. There are a number of Filipino American coalitions and networks at the national, regional, and local levels. The Organization shall not duplicate the functions of these organizations except where it is necessary to assist in the creation of alliances for those types of organizations where none exist.
  3. Build on the energies of the existing organizations. Each Filipino American organization presents a wide-range of activities and services. The Organization shall build on the energies of the existing organizations by promoting harmonious relationships among them and encouraging collaboration along issues and geographic boundaries.

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The attached diagram Structre.jpg (57282 bytes) best serves the parameters stated above and possesses the following characteristics:

  1. Moveable. Though it may have a central address and staff in Washington, DC, its main direction comes from a representative body originating from multi-faceted organizations and regions. As such, its supervision comes from different regions.
  2. Issues-oriented. The organization is issues-oriented and is not vulnerable to regional and personal loyalties. As such, it is both
    1. Non-Partisan.
    2. Inclusive.
  3. Responsive. Since all existing organizations will easily fall under one of the task forces and due to its direct link to one coordinating body, dissemination of information is stable and accelerated.


Composition of the Organization

The Organization shall be composed of a Coordinating Ad Hoc Secretariat (CAHS), Task Forces, Advisory Committee, and Honorary Committee. Of these groups, the CAHS shall act as a working board and provide the overall guidance of the Organization during the interim period. As stated previously, all existing organizations and associations to be established in the future, shall fall under at least one of the task forces.

Coordinating Ad Hoc Secretariat (CAHS)

The CAHS shall be the duly-elected, policy-making body of the Organization for the next two years (to be elected at the 22-24 August 1997 conference).


Realizing that the CAHS shall represent regional and national interests, it shall be composed of individuals representative of various regions and the community at-large (election of regional representatives and at-large chamber—each of these members shall have only one vote in the CAHS). It shall consist of a minimum twenty-two (22) and a maximum thirty-five (35) members. This number does not include committee members who are not part of the duly-elected CAHS (see point [h] under Duties and Responsibilities of the CAHS).

Duties and Responsibilities of the CAHS

In addition to setting the direction, future course, and overall guidance of the organization, its thirty-six members (including the Executive Director who shall have an ex-officio, non-voting seat on the CAHS) are charged with the following duties and responsibilities:

  1. Produce mission and vision statements (immediately) and incorporate these through a series of attainable objectives and goals. These shall be incorporated into a draft of a viable constitution and bylaws (presented a year later [1998] to all organizations represented at this conference and ratified the following year [1999] at a national conference) which respects the parameters and characteristics outlined under Considerations above.
  2. Organize a database of
    1. Filipino American community organizations and voluntary agencies.
    2. Prominent Filipino American individuals in business, academe, etc.
    3. Elected and appointed Filipino American officials at the federal, state, and local levels;
    4. Elected and appointed non-Filipino American officials at the federal, state, and local levels sympathetic to Filipino American concerns.
  3. Marketing campaign:
    1. Build alliances according to issues with mainstream and other ethnic communities.
      Constituency building through grassroots campaigns.
    2. Track federal legislation which affects Filipino Americans in coordination with the task force on human and civil rights.
  4. Elect the interim officers of the CAHS, with their duties and responsibilities outlined below, comprised of the following (the interim officers shall come from the duly-elected members of CAHS):
    1. Chair
      1. Represent the Organization and serve as its chief spokesperson.
      2. Preside at all meetings of the CAHS.
      3. Perform duties and responsibilities assigned by the CAHS and the Organization.
      4. Perform other duties and responsibilities as are commonly performed by the chief executive and spokesperson of voluntary organizations.
    2. President
      1. Serve as the liaison between the Chair and all committee and task force chiefs.
      2. In cooperation with the Executive Director, implement the goals set forth by the Chair, CAHS, and/or the Organization.
      3. Succeed the office of the Chair and perform its duties and responsibilities during its vacancy until a time the CAHS has duly elected a Chair to serve the remaining of the initial two-year term.
      4. Perform other duties and responsibilities assigned by the CAHS and the Organization.
    3. Vice-President
      1. Oversee the mobilization efforts of the Organization through the existing networks and coalitions, grassroots organizations, and local voluntary organizations.
      2. Serve as ex-officio, non-voting member of all committees and task forces.
      3. Succeed the office of the President and perform its duties and responsibilities during its vacancy until a time the CAHS has duly elected a Chair to serve the remaining of the initial two-year term.
      4. Perform other duties and responsibilities assigned by the CAHS and the Organization.
  5. Formulate the composition and recruit members of the Honorary and Advisory Committees for the two-year period.
  6. Search and hire an Executive Director (ED). The ED shall be charged with the following duties and responsibilities:
    1. Formulate a workable fiscal budget.
    2. Raise funds for the day-to-day operations of the Organization through grant proposal and corporate giving schemes.
    3. Coordinate the functions and activities of all the task forces (see attachment).
    4. Together with the CAHS, represent the Filipino American community’s concerns to the general public, i.e., media, legislators, etc.
    5. Hire and supervise performance of other staff, volunteers, and interns.
    6. Appoint the various committee members during the interim period. Although the Chair/Vice-President of these committees shall come from the duly-elected members of CAHS, committee members do not necessarily have to come from the pool of duly-elected membership of the CAHS.
    7. Raise or commit funds for the seed monies of the Organization.
    8. Create other ad hoc committees or temporary task forces during the two-year interim period as may be necessary in the fulfillment of the Organization’s objectives as outlined by the CAHS (see (a) above).


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Task Forces

The various task forces (see attachment) shall be the heart and soul of the Organization. These shall be the main coordinating bodies for the various issues and interests of the Filipino American community and has a two-way relationship with the CAHS. Each of the existing organizations in the Filipino American community shall fall under at least one task force and shall have one vote within the task force.

The only exception shall be in the case of regional umbrella organizations whose membership come from various interest groups. For example, if the Organization of Juan dela Cruzes, a fictional organization, encompasses associations catering to cultural preservation, delivering human services, and provincial origin-based organizations, these individual organizations clearly have different interests. Therefore, these individual organizations shall fall under the specific task force which cater to their organization’s mission and shall be entitled to one vote within the task force. In this scenario, youth, profession-affiliated, and veterans networks/coalitions may have a seat in their respective task forces and shall also have one vote within the task force.

Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee, a non-voting body, shall have the following duties and responsibilities:

  1. Assist in raising funds for the day-to-day operations of the Organization by identifying business leaders and philanthropists and/or
  2. Provide professional services gratis in areas of non-profit management, lobbying, fundraising, legal consultancy, etc.

It is to be composed of not more than twenty (20) members.

Honorary Committee

The Honorary Committee shall be composed of national, regional, and local leaders who are sympathetic to Filipino American concerns. The purpose of this committee is to better attract funds and other support (e.g., raising the profile and visibility of the Organization) to Filipino American concerns. These persons shall be composed of elected officials and prominent industry (e.g., business, labor, etc.) leaders and do not necessarily have to be of Filipino descent. Its number shall not exceed fifteen (15) members.

Final Note

"Panahon Na!" connotes that the time is indeed ripe for the formation of a truly national organization. Indeed, kahapon pa! But since the Filipino American community has been so patient since 1986 when it became clear that Philippine political divisions have to crumble as well, it may be worthwhile to limit ourselves, for the next two years, to an interim organization which will lead to a more permanent institution representing the Filipino American.

The basic tenets in establishing an organization for all of Filipino America are representation and consultation. This national unity for our people should therefore be carefully examined by the various sectors affected and our individual organizational memberships consulted over the next two years. It is stressed that the current national and regional organizations dealing with specific issues and concerns be encouraged to grow as independent entities. We simply cannot establish a constitution and bylaws, and even more so, an organization, that perpetuates our own personal convictions and/or organizational interests. Likewise, we must be mindful of the 85% of Filipino Americans who do not belong to any type of Filipino-oriented organization and ensure that their concerns are heard and solutions to the issues affecting their daily lives are pursued.


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Submitted by (for identification purposes only):

Vladimir J.M. Manuel - Founding Chair, Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue (FIND) and Secretary of the Board, Filipino American Human Services, Inc. (FAHSI)
Gloria Caoile – Chair of the Executive Board, Philippine American Heritage Foundation (PAHF) and National Empowerment Conference Host
Roberto Casumbal – Associate Editor, The Link
RJ Diokno – Conference 1998 Organizer, FIND
Liz de Guzman – District VI Co-Chair (1997-1998), FIND
Mark Harang – External Vice-President, Asian Pacific eXchange
Joe Montano – Member, Filipino Civil Rights Advocates (FilCRA) National Council
Mark Pulido – Member, FilCRA National Council
Rodney Salinas – Presidential Administrative Fellow, Office of Congressional and Federal Relations of the George Washington University
Jon Melegrito – President, Philippine American Heritage Foundation (PAHF) and National Empowerment Conference Host





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