1. Where in London do you live and what do you love most about London?
Gene: I live in Bayswater. I have lived in London for 3 decades and seen it go through great changes, tragedies and triumphs. I love London’s diversity and vibrancy, it is truly old and yet it is a modern metropolis.
Steven: I live in Waltham Forest in East London. I love London for its diverse mix of cultures and communities, traditional treasures and modern ideas…All we need is a Jollibee in London, and it will be perfect!
2. When was the last time you went to the Philippines and where did you go?
Gene: I was in the Philippines with my family last December/January. We stayed mostly inManila, but spent time in San Pablo City in Laguna, Arayat in Pampanga, and the fabulous island of Boracay. We were always surrounded by family and friends.
Steven: I was there in the summer last year for nearly eight weeks and then shortly in April this year. I stayed at Pembo, Makati (near Market! Market!) with my family. I visited Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, Taguig, Batangas, Naga, Pili, Bicol, San Pablo and many more… I also went to the TV city and saw how the Pinoys enjoyed their Sunday morning lining up for ‘WoWoWee’. Plus I visited the local church my grandfather attended.
3. Why have you decided to run?
Gene: I am running as an Independent Candidate because I believe I will have more impact on people’s lives this way. I have been helping people through my community and Immigration work but I would help more if in an elected position. People have lost trust in British politicians and can no longer distinguish between the main political parties. If I win I would represent the interests of my constituents, rather than have to follow a party line. Filipinos and other migrants and marginalised Londoners do not have a voice in politics. As 75% of laws implemented in the UK emanate from Europe, it is very important that they have someone who will champion their case directly in Europe. They deserve better, and I will be their voice in the European Parliament.
Steven: European Parliament makes a lot of important decisions that affect all of us, but people like the Filipino community have no representation in that Parliament. We have been a silent community (in the political arena) for too long. I want to bring our voice to Europe. I can see firsthand the problems faced by our community in the UK, many people that live here were doctors, teachers and professionals in the Philippines. However, since coming to the UK, they are professionally devalued / downgraded. Also we are contributing to the UK healthcare system through the large amount of Filipino nurses and carers in London. Arguably, we have been treated as a second class citizen for far too long, we are law-abiding, hard working pay taxes and we deserve equal rights and a voice where decisions are made! We should not be afraid to speak up and stand up. We should be proud of being a Pinoy!
4. What are your 3 key campaign issues and why?
Gene: My 3 key campaign issues are Clean and Honest Politics, Fairness to every Londoner and Safety for our Children.
• I am running on a platform of Clean and Honest Politics. The ‘culture of abuse’ in the Labour Government and the major political parties must stop now…
• Fairness to every Londoner revolves around the fact that Greater London is the most diverse place in the whole of the UK, with 29% of the population comprised of migrants and ethnic minorities. …
• Safety for our Children – the recent spate of knifings and shootings by young people mainly in Greater London does not inspire confidence and create fear amongst those of us with children…
Steven: My campaign issues will all focus on Peace. Without Peace there can be no prosperity. In this turbulent time, it is ever more important to safeguard this very key value within the European Union. I will campaign for PEACE in every aspect of our lives and 3 of the main issues are:
• PEACE between Europe and our trading partner’s meaning we need a proper framework to protect free trade…
• PEACE among communities means we need to respect each other and ensure there are equal rights for all…Equal rights also mean equal opportunities for all Filipinos in the UK who hold high qualifications yet working in positions far below their aspiration.
• PEACE in the neighbourhood means we need to give protection to our community by looking at the root of crime and inspire our young people. We need to create more opportunities both home and abroad for young people to work and study.
5. What difference do you feel you can make?
Gene: I have spent decades organising our community in various ways, starting with my leadership of a group back in the mid 1980s which now annually holds the biggest Barrio Fiesta outside of the Philippines. I have been involved in introducing newspaper and magazine publications in the community and I am pleased to say that now we have a healthy community press in the UK. In my work at the British Council I was the founding Chair of the Ethnic Minorities Development Group which campaigned for equal rights for migrants in the organisation. In Poland I was the Chair of Warsaw Toastmasters which comprised many nationalities and competed in public competitions in Berlin. With such a background, I feel that I have shown leadership and strategic qualities, as well as courage, integrity and the ability to get things done that I would bring to Europe…
Steven: With the support of the Filipino community, I want to be their voice in Europe. Other politicians will need to take note of what we, as a community, have to say. I also hope that my work will encourage more people from my community to take more of an interest in politics, to vote and even to stand in future elections.
6. Why do you feel people should vote in the European Elections?
Gene: 75% of the laws in the UK actually derive from the European Parliament, and the British Government has to implement them as we are members of the EU. It is important therefore that people realise they can actually influence this body by sending a representative who will speak and act for them. They can only do that if they vote in the European elections.
Steven: More and more European laws are passed down to the UK, so it really will affect all of us. If we don’t vote we cannot have any say in any of the policies. We need to put our votes together and send a strong message to all politicians so that they will take note of our concerns. We need to work together to shape our future.
7. Who is your biggest Political influence?
Gene: When I ran for West Ham in 2005 I was actually heavily influenced by the achievements of Filipinos in North America who had been elected to political offices at Mayor, Governor, State Senator and Assemblyman levels. I thought if they could do it, then so could we on this side of the pond if we could get British-Filipinos to participate in the British political process. More recently, there is only one person who had affected me so much personally in terms of what is possible in this world: Barack Obama.
Steven: There are many. Winston Churchill for his courage, Ramon Magsaysay for his integrity, Nelson Mandela for his fight against apartheid, Mahatma Gandhi for his non-violence movement and Dr Sun Yat-sen for his democratic ideal.
8. What most annoys you about Politics?
Gene: In Britain, I am annoyed most by the fact that party politics are so entrenched. What this means is that the voting public may vote for a particular party every time without actually thinking…Hopefully this is changing with the expenses scandal. So we had Labour voters voting Labour into power three times in a row and look where it got us. I would prefer to look at individual leaders and personalities and their achievements and reputations, than simply have to accept whoever the parties field. With 14 party and 5 independent candidates in the European elections, Londoners now have that choice.
Steven: Politicians forgetting who put them there, ignoring the needs of the people and taking advantage of their status. The Expenses row is a clear indication of how far some politicians have betrayed our trust. The wastage and the bureaucracy of EU is also something that I will focus on if I am elected.
9. What is your strongest characteristic…and worst trait?
Gene: My strongest characteristic has to be my determination always to stand for what is right and my straight-talking. Some people prefer you to beat around the bush and so on but that is not my style. My worst trait possibly is when I try sometimes to do too many things at once. I have learnt to curb this because I realise that once you have dealt with an issue or a problem, the next one actually comes along.
Steven: I am passionate, hardworking and I have a strong empathy with people. I am always positive and am able to work with people to look for common goals. My worse trait is my passion for people can mean I can sometime take on too much problems on behalf of others. I will therefore focus first on my main campaign issues if I get elected.
10. What are your views on the recent MP expenses scandal?
Gene: I just wonder at how pathetic the government ministers and MPs are who were caught with their hands in the till. If you look at the range of expenses claimed by MPs of all parties you will quickly realise how petty many of the items are, although of course the ‘flippers’ clearly knew how to milk the system in a major way. For me it is all so tragicomic because if you look at corrupt dictators around the world, they steal in the hundred millions, if not billions. Although I am angry at this abuse, I suppose I have to be thankful that at least British MPs are not world-class kleptomaniacs.
Steven: All political parties need to put their house in order as a first priority. They should publish all the expense accounts immediately and not wait until July as originally planned. People should be able to examine each and every expense claim on the internet and an independent body must be set up to examine any discrepancies / complaints. Any MP found to be abusing the system must be required to step down. The police must be called in to investigate any alleged wrong doing as no one should be above the law. Without the confidence of people, Parliament cannot function. We also need to make sure that extremist parties like the BNP do not benefit from the scandal.
To visit Gene’s web site, please CLICK HERE
To visit Steven’s web site, please CLICK HERE
Now that you have a deeper insight into the lives and opinions of the two men, bear that in mind when voting begins on 4th June 2009.
By Adrian, with special thanks to Mark & Nigel.
Pictures courtesy of www.genealcantara.com, Zheng Xu of Kaizfeng Photography and James Wong