Saturday, April 13, 2013


The Asian American bloc in the United States House of Representatives led the filing of a bill to restore benefits to Filipino World War II veterans amid their protest over a key hurdle that has blocked many of them from receiving their share of an “equity compensation” fund.

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) re-filed the “Filipino Veterans Fairness Act” last April 9, the 71st anniversary (not 70th as I erroneously wrote in a previous post) of the Fall of Bataan.

But for some, that’s not enough as the clock keeps ticking on their grievances.

“We have waited and waited for action from President Obama,” complained 95-year-old Celestino Almeda, spokesman for the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV), at a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II National Memorial in Washington DC.

“It has been six months since Obama formed the inter-agency working group to solve our Filipino veterans’ recognition problems. It seems they are not working together. Nothing has happened,” he rued.

Almeda is only one of thousands of Filipino veterans here and in the Philippines whose claims (lump sum payments worth $15,000 for Filipino veterans who are now US citizens and $9,000 for non-citizens) were rejected because of the requirement  for multiple, collaborative evidence of their service during World War II.
To be eligible, current rule says they had to be in the “Missouri List” – 80 percent of its original records for the period 1912-1960 were burned in a fire in 1973. The proposed “Filipino Veterans Fairness Act” mandates the Department of Veterans Affairs to take into account alternative military documentation.

“A promise made must be a promise kept,” Rep. Jackie Speier (14th Dist., CA) said (she 1st sponsored the bill in 2011).

  “I am frankly embarrassed that we are still having this debate more than a half-century after Filipino veterans helped us win World War II. At the time, 66 countries supported the United States and all but one country’s soldiers received full veterans’ benefits,” she added, calling the Filipino veterans’ struggle as a “moral issue”.

“Filipino veterans defended our country with bravery, just like their American counterparts, and they deserve the status and benefits that they were promised over 65 years ago…we must act now and fulfill our promises while we still have time,” chimed Rep. Judy Chu (27th Dist., CA and CAPAC chairperson).

“Time is running out for Congress to fully recognize the service of the over 250,000 Filipinos who answered President Roosevelt’s call to defend democracy in the Pacific region during World War II. They fought valiantly along American forces and deserve to be treated as U.S. veterans with full benefits,” said Rep. Mike Honda (17th Dist., CA and CAPAC Chair Emeritus).

Said Guam Rep. And CAPAC vice chairperson Madeleine Bordallo, “On the anniversary of Bataan Day, we remember all those who lost their lives in the Fall of Bataan during World War II, including the Americans and Filipinos who fought side by side…As we reflect on this demonstration of the enduring friendship between the United States and the Philippines, we also take note that Filipino veterans have not received the benefits promised to them.”

“Filipino veterans who fought in World War II are American veterans and deserve to be treated fairly,” declared Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

(Our thanks to Consul Elmer Cato of the Philippine Embassy and Eric Lachica of the ACFV for these photos of the 71st Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) commemorating the Fall of Bataan at the World War II National Monument in Washington D.C. April 9, 2013) 

 “It is unacceptable for our country to deny them these benefits for their service. I call on my colleagues in Congress to join me in moving swiftly to pass this legislation so that we can finally fulfill the promise of equal rights for thousands of veterans across the country, and fully honor the men and women who served our country so bravely in a time of war.”

The other lawmakers who have committed support for the “Filipino Veterans Fairness Act” include Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (2nd Dist, HI), Barbara Lee (13th Dist., CA), Adam Schiff (28th Dist., CA), Eric Swalwell (15th Dist. CA) and American Samoa Rep. Eni Faleomavaega.

The ACFV said it has asked Pres. Obama to issue an executive order to the US Army to update their policies which the group asserts, unfairly excluded from their official 1948 roster the names of thousands of Filipino veterans who served with the US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

They noted this change could be needed for their efforts to lobby Congress for passage of a bill that would grant visas to about 20,000 adult sons and daughters of Filipino-American World War II veterans that may also hinge on the US Army certification.

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