“Little People Power”: SF Filipino youth rally for non-profit funding

The gray edifice that is San Francisco’s City Hall cast a large shadow on a small gathering of protestors on Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn’t exactly People Power. It was “little people power.”

On the frontlines were mostly kids who benefit from the West Bay Multi-Service Center’s after-school activities. The group, anchored in the city’s South of Market, the hub and magnet of the city’s immigrant Filipino community, wanted to know why their programs were being threatened. The city’s disbursement of some $9 million in funds for disadvantaged families included ZERO non-profits dedicated to the American Filipino community.

The children stood in the shadows of City Hall.

No one inside with any power came out to speak to them.

The children are innocents in this political folly. So we shall protect them.

It was for their sake that the adults like West Bay’s Rudy Asercion were there to demonstrate publicly the dismay over the lack of funding to his long-standing non-profit of 40 years.

Asercion took over for West Bay in 2006 after the group was implicated in a scandal that involved everything from motorized scooters for seniors to allegations of Medicare fraud at the Wilson Fung Clinic. West Bay’s involvement was relatively minor, but it wrecked its credibility and made it a target for opportunists who want to control the Filipino community politically.

The opportunists did what opportunists do. They exploited the situation and used it to purge what had been for the most part, a viable non-profit network in the South of Market.

At the center of the upheaval is South of Market Supervisor Chris Daly, who plays a major role in the “back story.”


On Sep. 29, 2005, West Bay went before San Francisco’s Budget and Finance Committee to seek release of some $351,000 in city funds it was due for its work providing services to S.F. residents. The funds were frozen when Daly questioned West Bay’s alleged involvement in the scandals.

Never mind that an audit by the city’s Office of the Controller, found no evidence that connected West Bay to the Wilson Fung Medical Clinic’s alleged fraud. West Bay merely had sublet space to the clinic, and was the landlord of the clinic.

The findings pretty much put West Bay in the clear. West Bay was even told by the controller’s office that all the city departments that work with West Bay had been consulted and wanted to continue their relationship.

All West Bay had to do is get on the Budget and Finance Committee agenda.

And that’s where Daly and his cohort Tom Ammiano, now a state legislator, did their political magic trick and prevented West Bay from getting the money it needed.

The two never allowed WestBay on the agenda. They had their foot in West Bay’s throat. And they never let up.

Four years later, mostly through Asercion’s fundraising efforts to corporations and individuals, West Bay has managed to stay alive. It’s nowhere near what it was. But it still serves the community well—to the dismay of Daly and his Filipino cronies who run competing non-profits in the South of Market.


This year’s battle of funds is different. Money is tighter than ever. And new alliances are being drawn. The new budget committee chair John Avalos is a Daly crony.

But the new President of the Board of Supervisors is David Chiu, an independent who has reached out to WestBay and has led an effort to make sure it the community gets its fair share.

Behind the scenes, Asercion and key members of the Filipino community are meeting with the supervisors and Mayor Gavin Newsom to make sure the community isn’t shut out.

The politics behind it all dismaying.

Filipino Daly cronies are already starting an anti-West Bay campaign based in part on the “scandal” that is no longer relevant. They’re also saying West Bay doesn’t represent all Filipinos. True, it doesn’t. But the budget recommendations don’t give a dime to any Filipino non-profit directly. There may be other non-profits out there, but the ones dedicated to the community shouldn’t be subject to the political vindictiveness of an ambitious politician and those in his pocket.

To understand who the “good guys” are in this whole thing, you had to be at the rally Tuesday.

It was all about the kids. They held signs wondering why West Bay was getting nothing. As they marched a cry came from a bullhorn: “What do we want?”

“Funding” said the kids.

Bullhorn: “When do we want it?”

“Now,” said the kids.

The seriousness of the matter was often undercut by the kids’ awareness of what they were involved in: Democracy.

“Give me liberty or give me death,” said one, an homage to Patrick Henry.

When you celebrate your Fourth of July this weekend, think of the West Bay kids. They aren’t giving up. They’ve taken a stand.

It wasn’t “People Power,” it was “Little People Power.”

Now where is the community in solidarity behind them?