IFTH YEAR IN THE SENATE Are We Better or Worse Off with Tobias Enverga?

By | February 18, 2017

~ “Para sa atin itong lahat,” Tobias Enverga proudly boasted in the Tagalog vernacular, not once but several times, to mean that his appointment to the Senate in September 2012 was also for the Filipino community and not just for him and his family. Yet nearly five years have passed and that which is ours, supposedly, can’t even be felt or seen. Have Filipinos in Toronto gone beyond “being the best at karaoke” that Enverga had so condescendingly characterized? Are Filipino-Canadians better or worse off than when he was just barking for support for his fundraising activities for charities of his choice? What has he accomplished outside of his many photo ops?

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“It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath”. ~Aeschylus

TORONTO – In the first two years since he was appointed to the Senate in September 2012, Tobias Enverga has been waging a campaign for acceptance by the Filipino community in Ontario, the Canadian province he represents in the Red Chamber.

Perhaps in deep reflection he knew he had to live up to certain expectations. Familiarity with the people is not enough, he had to measure up to a lot of preconceived notions about occupying an appointive federal post without any input from the community he supposedly stands for.

Enverga has quietly burnished his Senate bio sketch, adding the promotional, and I quote, “active in advocacies both at the international and domestic level (sic), he served as convenor and chair of the ‘Global Filipino Nation’ and ‘Global Filipinos Canada’ . . . ” (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8Hx6gSwD6w).

I tried many times to search for “Global Filipino Nation” and “Global Filipinos Canada” and there seems to be a dearth of information about what those were. In any case, the act of refurbishing his resume, after sitting in the Senate for almost five years now, is to me an indication that he wants to look good and significant.

I suspect it had to do with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s effort to pack the Senate with illustrious men and women of outstanding achievements and do away with political patronage, which is what Enverga’s appointment falls into. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNhl-SRW–0).

Enverga’s bio shows that he has no formal legal background nor knowledge of legislative work nor relevant experience in being a member of what he called, wrongly, the chamber of “second sober thought”. It’s actually the place of “sober second thought” as Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald had envisioned. 

Enverga has highlighted the fact, according to the Senate website, that “he was the founder of the ‘Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation (PCCF)’ in 2010, helping and donating monies for charity both in Canada and the Philippines”. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxrBm995Cwg).

A press release dated Feb. 1, 2017, from Franchesca Nicole Lynne S. Vistal, publicity writer for GMA corporate affairs, announced that “PCCF x x x  has once again extended their generosity by donating to GMA Kapuso Foundation (GMAKF), the socio-civic arm of GMA Network”.

“Since 2010,” says the press release, “GMAKF has been a regular beneficiary of PCCF x x x GMA Pinoy TV is also a regular partner of PCCF in their fundraising events such as pageants and festivals that bring Filipino-Canadians together in celebrating culture and values”. Vistal did not respond when asked to quantify the PCCF donation from 2010. 

In the PCCF website, it claimed that “to-date, PCCF has donated over $80,000 (that’s 3.03 million pesos) to various philanthropic endeavors both in Canada and in the Philippines” that included ANCOP, AFCM, Kapuso Foundation, among others.

The mention of Canada and the Philippines might be a deviation from its original mandate “to relieve poverty in developing nations by providing food and other basic supplies to persons in need”. That means PCCF is concentrated in two countries rather than in the ambiguous “developing nations”.

Enverga’s appointment, given the historical background, came out as a surprise to many who knew him to be an aggressive fundraiser in community events either for his own charities or for those of his choices.

In fact, Enverga is the ever-present face of fundraising in Greater Toronto Area just as his wife, the high-profile Rosemer Albovias Enverga, is the living image behind beauty pageants. Together they form a conjugal partnership anchored on entertainment undertakings linked with her employer, the Manila-based GMA network.

In his first two years, he was practically barnstorming for validation and recognition. He would sing praises for his patron, Stephen Harper, the former Conservative prime minister, and painting his appointment as something of a “phenomenon” that occurred once in a million situations.

He spoke at every community event he attended even if only for a few minutes just to be seen and heard and, of course, for the photo ops. In most of these instances, he equated his luck as if it was a providential gift “for all of us”.

“As you know,” Enverga said in March 2013, “I’ve been appointed by our prime minister as the only Filipino-Canadian in the Senate. As I’ve been telling everybody else, this appointment is not just for me. It is not for me, it is not for my family, but it is for the whole Filipino Canadians. Para sa atin itong lahat. This is our recognition of our achievement. This is a recognition of our hard work dito sa Canada”. (Video at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cdQMojaPys).

It’s hard to believe that. If I’m selfish – and I am not – I would ask: what is it there for me? What benefit has the community derived from his appointment? 

If Enverga is our “recognition”, then I would sink in shame over his statement to the Senate that Filipinos “are known . . . most of all, for being the best at karaoke”. A member of the Senate pitching for us in those terms? Holy moly!

The four years that followed after that speech have not been remarkable for the Filipino community. His constituency in Ontario province appears to have fractured into two main interest groups – one, that supports him blindly; and two, that cries for accountability and transparency.

The first group finds its home in PCCF and its allied associations, including the alleged disciples of Jose Rizal and the lamestream media and “presstitutes” in the Philippine Press Club of Ontario. The second counts his most vociferous critics and organizations that compete with his PCCF.

The Filipino community of Toronto is a house divided, a situation exacerbated by Enverga’s manifest favoritism for people and organization he perceives as friendly. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNhl-SRW–0). Those who don’t belong are naturally hostiles. Now, what happens to his claim as “voice of the community”?