On DeSantis, Bonta and Marcos
Emil Amok!

On DeSantis, Bonta and Marcos

/ 11:47 AM September 27, 2022

Ron DeSantis is all wet. And Hurricane Ian is making him pay for his unseemly Martha’s Vineyard political prank.

It’s all I can think about when you see a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mile per hour winds, as I write, grow into a massive public threat in Florida.


And there’s DeSantis looking for help from everyone. Neighboring states, far away states,  the feds, plus thousands of National Guardsmen.

And no one is saying no. It’s what we do in crisis. We help each other. We don’t smirk and give each other the middle finger.

But then, politicians act in strange ways, even though it’s a simple job if you just follow the basic principle: Do what you can for the people. Forget about yourself. You’re not profiting, you’re governing. You’re leading.

That’s usually the best way to go about a job where you are literally a “public servant.”

So consider what Republicans like to believe, that government gets in the way, and should be so minimal as to be non-existent. Essentially, they want to let people do it all themselves. They want to get rid of taxes, and any expectation of public help.

In other words, you’re on your own. Don’t look to the government for answers. That may sound good to some, still it doesn’t relieve the government from acting as “public servants.”


I think about this as I see the crazy way Gov. Ron DeSantis is handling western Florida’s evacuation from Hurricane Ian.

After being told to bag their own sand bags, hundreds of Floridians around the Tampa area are now stuck in traffic trying to evacuate for higher ground.

To where–Martha’s Vineyard?


Just think about that prank DeSantis pulled last week. Remember DeSantis wants to be president. But that prank was one self-disqualifying act.

First of all, DeSantis targeted asylum seekers who are not “illegal immigrants.” In general, they are refugees, people escaping persecution, many of whom are from Asian countries. At the moment there are nearly 471,000 pending asylum cases caught in a backlog that could take up to five years.

They are not “illegal.” They are waiting for their asylum cases to be heard and are in a special status, where in many situations, they can be allowed to work.

So why not hire them and put them to work in Florida? Good question.

Instead, De Santis and his associates saw a political opportunity. They went to  Texas and plucked 50 people off the streets in San Antonio and put them on a plane to Massachusetts. Why? It’s a state with “sanctuary policies.”

But it was a smirky, gutless “cover story,” essentially a lie, to score points among the xenophobic.

Mostly it was just inhumane and heartless, and only profited DeSantis among hard core Republicans who fear immigration reform.

But DeSantis got what he wanted—to be seen as an exporter of migrants, in this case people running from a Venezuelan dictator simply seeking opportunity in America.

Instead, those poor migrants encounter DeSantis, who loves to play the mean and nasty hardass “helping” asylum seekers by sending them to Martha’s Vineyard.

As Ian plays out, think of DeSantis’ over the last two weeks and how he has failed to show the kind of leadership necessary under crisis.

The governor wants to be president? I’ll give him higher ground, but you must understand this. DeSantis is unfit for higher office.

Bonta, on the other hand

Meanwhile in California, we are seeing the one-two punch of the Bontas. That’s Rob, the Filipino American, attorney general of California. And his wife, Mia Bonta, the former education exec who won the Oakland Assembly seat vacated by her husband when he was appointed top cop by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Bontas are fast becoming a political duo in California to be reckoned with, and it’s all because of their approach–public service.

Just this month Rob Bonta announced a new branch of the state’s Justice Department, an Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

But the idea of getting all the stakeholders involved to discuss and create solutions across the state was Mia Bonta’s.

“Each gun violence tragedy sits heavy in my heart,” Mia Bonta said in a statement. “I mourn with the families of the victims and wonder, what it will take to finally end this gun violence epidemic. The establishment of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention is a testament to the Attorney General also recognizing the need to elevate this matter statewide to identify comprehensive and effective solutions.”

The family that politics together? It happens a lot at all levels of government. But you figure it would happen with this pair on some high profile issues, especially with Rob Bonta being the first Filipino American attorney general in a post that has catapulted national stars like one certain politician currently vice president.

Bonta is already high profile on guns protecting attacks against California’s assault weapons ban. But he’s also made sure that he takes issues that herald him as a champion of the people.

For the community, Rob Bonta has already agreed to look into the case of Angelo Quinto, the Filipino American navy veteran who was killed after an incident with police in the family home in Antioch, Calif.  Antioch has said the police would not be charged. A civil suit alleging wrongful death is still pending, but AG Bonta will see if a criminal case is in order.

And then there’s Amazon. AG Bonta  made the front page of the Wall Street Journal recently when he sued Amazon on anti-trust issues for the way that company deals with third party sellers. It forces them to promise not to sell their products on other websites at lower prices. Do so and get cut from Amazon.

It’s a power play that allows Amazon to set the market price, and the consumer loses.

“If you think about Californians paying even just a little bit more for every product they purchased online over the course of a year, let alone a decade, which is what is at issue here, the collective magnitude of harm here is very far-reaching,” Rob Bonta said at a news conference. “The ‘everything store’ has effectively set a price floor, costing Californians more for just about everything.”

The suit only impacts California. But other states surely would follow if Bonta becomes an Amazon killer.  And if he does that, that will garner even greater national attention.

That’s how politicians should act. In the public service.

And then there’s Marcos

As long as we’re talking about political leadership, we might as well look at one of the best examples of the very worst.

Is there a better model of what not to do in public life than Marcos? Considering the coincidence of 50 years since martial law was declared in the Philippines (Sept. 21), it’s worth a passing mention don’t you think?

Martial law is long gone. But the stink remains. There’s still the legacy of all the people who got in his way. The 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 tortured, 77 disappearances, 70,000 incarcerations, according to Amnesty International and other monitoring agencies.

Marcos was the apex of self-service in government. Not only did he eliminate members of the public that got in his way, he took the wealth of the people. Marcos enriched himself and plundered the public coffers to the tune of $10 billion, according to a U.S. congressional report from then Ambassador Steven Bosworth.

And to think that 50 years later, the son of Marcos, Bongbong, a/k/a Ferdinand Junior is in Malacanang as the current president of the Philippines. Will he continue the formal payback to the government still in the courts? Or will he pay back the Philippines in a new way.

It is like a strange sequel where you “SMH” so much you look like a bobblehead doll.

BongBong looks harmless, but I’d say the jury’s still out. He’s back in the U.S. still trying to undo history, as he embarks on a mission to “reintroduce the Philippines.”

But we already know what it is.  Besides, it would take more than a “re-introduction.” It would take plastic surgery–of the soul.

Last week Bongbong was in New York for the UN meetings, and a group of protesters greeted him outside. They were reminders of the  history.

My daughter was among them. She sent me a picture of the marchers. Among them, I saw one who held a picture of Joaquin “Chino” Roces, a white haired journalist  known as “Tatang.”

Roces was born into wealth, but disdained privilege.  Even though he owned a newspaper, publications, as well as radio and TV stations, Roces was known as a “street philosopher.” When Marcos declared martial law, Roces was among the first arrested and detained.

He was considered that dangerous. My father was alive at the time, and being Ilocano, Marcos, his townmate, could do no wrong. My father was loyal to the end.

But I was an American Filipino. I knew better. And still do, 50 years later.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer’s North American bureau.

NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.

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