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Meet the blind Pinoy lawyer seeking a city council seat in West Covina

Steve Angeles | TFC News West Covina

Posted at Oct 20 2022 10:00 AM

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He has been blind since birth, but that doesn’t stop Ollie Cantos from looking into a brighter future in the city of West Covina.

Cantos is running for the West Covina City Council in next month’s election.

Nearly a fifth of the city's 109,000 residents are Filipino, one of the highest concentrations of Filipinos in the US.

Cantos spent some 20 years as general counsel for a nonprofit in Washington DC.

Since 2004, he had been part of the Justice Department, as well as associate director for Domestic Policy at the White House.

He is currently serving as Special Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary at the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.

Cantos has also led several Asian American as well as disability advocate groups.

"I'm just really honored to have served this country as a commissioned officer appointed directly by the President and I’m really grateful to have had the opportunities and also to work on a bipartisan basis to do whatever I can to make a difference for our community," Cantos said.

Cantos credits his Filipino upbringing for his lifetime of achievements despite his disability.

"Being blind I just had real low self esteem because of the bullying everyday," he admitted. "But my mom and dad demanded, it was not a request, they demanded that I worked hard to do well and they expected me to succeed academically as well as to do the chores around the house like other kids my age."

When the Covid-19 pandemic allowed him to work from home in West Covina, the adopted father of blind triplets decided he could also make an impact in his hometown.

"I have seen the pitfalls of bureaucracy and the triumph of what happens when people work together so when I was approved to work out here in West Covina full time on a permanent basis, that has enabled me to direct my energy to making a difference right here at home."

Cantos is one of three candidates vying for West Covina's 4th district.

Another Filipino is on the ballot of the heavily Pinoy populated city. Former Mayor Letty Lopez-Viado, who first joined the city council, is running unopposed in the 2nd district.

Election Day is scheduled for November 8th, while absentee ballots have begun arriving in boxes.