Sunday, June 29, 2008

PGMA supports equity for Filipino World War II veterans

American Coalition for Filipino Veterans leaders (L to R): Manuel Cannu of San Diego CA, Rudy Panaglima of Arlington VA and Patrick Ganio of Jacksonville FL of greet Philippine President Gloria Arroyo as Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista CA) and Rep. Darrell ISSA (R-Vista CA), co-chairs of the Philippine-US Friendship Congressional Caucus look on in Cannon House VA Committee Hearing Room 334 on June 25, 2008.(ACFV photo by Eric Lachica)

WASHINGTON – June 25 – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo batted strongly Wednesday for equity for Filipino veterans who had fought and suffered alongside American forces in World War II including the infamous Bataan Death March.

Before two different fora held hours apart, the recurring theme of the President’s speech was equity for the Filipino veterans who fought and died under the banner of the Stars and Stripes in WWII.

At the reception for the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus at the Veterans Committee Hearing Room, US Capitol Building, the President said the history of the Filipino veterans’ role in WWII “remains incomplete; the last chapter is yet to be written.”

But, she added, it is not too late to “honor the service of all our fathers – American and Philippine – who fought for America and believed in the promise of America. To paraphrase another great American President, Abraham Lincoln: ‘We must now call on the better angels of our nature and set our sights high.”

She said that when then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called on the Filipinos to serve in the US military after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, “our fathers of that greatest generation heeded the call. The President of the United States was our commander-in-chief.”

“Filipinos served as US soldiers, fought side by side with Americans, and died under the banner of the Star and Stripes. They suffered through some of the most brutal acts of World War II, including the notorious Bataan Death March. Yet they prevailed, and together we vanquished the enemy and brought freedom and human dignity back to Asia and the world,” the President added.

She thanked US Congressmen Bob Filner and Darell Issa, two stalwarts in the “Filipino veterans equity movement,” and the general membership of the Philippine-US Friendship Caucus for their support for the Philippines and the Filipino WWII veterans.

The President said that during this trip to the US, she is personally working to promote the interests of Filipino WWII veterans with “your colleagues in the US Congress,” referring to Congressmen Filner and Issa.

She told the Caucus that it is time “we honor the past as we build for the future. Equity for the Philippine Veterans of World War II is within our grasp. We thank you for keeping the faith. We hope we can find a way to set history on its proper course and do justice to the greatest generation.”

In another forum, the reception with the Filipino community held at the Willard Hotel, the President called on the Filipinos in the US to keep the fight for equity for the Filipino WWII veteran going.

She said that in her meetings with President Bush and members of the US Congress, the interest of the Filipino veterans was foremost in the agenda.

The President thanked the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans and other groups for pushing hard for the Veterans Equity Bill leading to the approval of the Senate version of the measure.

She wished them success in persuading opponents of the bill in the US House of Representatives to reconsider their position “so as to correct a lingering injustice to our WWII heroes.”

The US Senate has passed its versions of the Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement a
Act of 2007 by a vote of 96-1. The measure would provide pension to 18,000 Filipino veterans who fought alongside the US forces in the Philippines in World War II.

Under the bill, surviving members of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and Filipino scouts living in the Philippines will receive a special monthly non-service disability pension of $300.

Filipino World War II veterans living in the US will receive the same range as their American counterparts whose monthly pension range from $900 to $1,400.

Out of the 470,000 Filipinos who joined the US forces in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War II, only about 18,000 are still alive, majority of them above 80 years old.

We thank Ambassador Willy Gaa, Minister Carlos Sorreta, Gen. Delfing Lorenzana, Maj. Percival Abu, Consul Rico Fos and their kind staff for their support and hospitality.

NEXT ACTION? Persuade House Speaker Nancy "Pay-Go" Pelosi to schedule a vote on S. 1315.

Stay tuned for our planned "Pay-Go" national action for the July 4th "Filipino American Friendship Day" anniverary to win Speaker Pelosi's heart & leadership.

American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc.