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Jul 10th
Home Sections Filipino-Veterans' Lobby Memoirs of the Veterans Lobby (Part One)
Memoirs of the Veterans Lobby (Part One) PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Filipino-Veterans' Lobby
Thursday, 26 February 2009 09:26

hen in June 17, 1988, the naturalization case of Pangilinan, et al, vs. INS was decided by the United States Supreme Court against the named petitioners. In fact, the Supreme Court declared the courts in the many-successful cases since 1975 had no authority to naturalize under the Nationality Act of 1940 as amended March 27, 1942, that expired on December 31, 1946. More-than 2,000 Filipino World War II veterans of various pending cases were caught flatfooted and were in danger of being deported.

So Ambassador Pelaez called for his entire Embassy staff for brainstorming. First Secretary Jimmy Yambao, Second Secretary Rolly Gregorio and Third Secretary Ric Marasigan presented a report of the political section. They said that pursuing the Rescission Act of 1946 at that time of emergency would just be an exercise in futility and that reversing the effects of the Supreme Court ruling was more a priority. They advised a strong strategic intervention to prevent our veterans who were already in-country from being further disadvantaged.


Interestingly, Mr. Marasigan who was doubling a community affairs officer, bemoaned the limited information resources within the Embassy affecting veterans’ issues. And when Ambassador Pelaez asked where the prevailing research that we have been using came from, Yambao said they were being provided by group of veterans headed by a certain Pat Ganio and Emong Rumingan. 


Mr. Ganio immigrated to the United States in the 1980 after being petitioned by her daughter, a nurse. At that time, he found employment as property manager of an apartment building along the prestigious Embassy Row in Massachusetts Avenue. Rumingan came earlier to the America in the 70s, initially as an undocumented alien but who later was able to regularize his status when he became a driver for the Omani Embassy.


Mr. Ganio only had a one-bedroom apartment at the building he was working but he developed the adjoining basement into a sort of a "war room" facility hosting the lobby of Filipino World War II veterans. There he played hosts to visiting aging veterans and Philippine dignitaries alike who has a piece to contribute for the advocacy.


The political section report concluded that the example Ganio and Rumingan showed serving as volunteer lobbyists for acquiring benefits from the United States for their colleagues was a clear indication that veterans themselves would make the unabashed face of injustice when confronting American legislators. Not only should the deportation of 2,000 of them ought to be averted, but enabling their naturalization through legislation could be a first step in opening the gateway for many more who were waiting in the Philippines. No one but the veterans themselves can argue their case any better; their mere presence in its corridors will consistently haunt the conscience of Capitol Hill, the report concluded.


The First Secretary Rolly Gregorio acknowledged that without specialists on the issue, then existing structure of the Philippine Embassy would be shortchanging the emergency. The motion for the creation of an ad-hoc veterans affairs office, therefore, surfaced. It was further suggested that this temporary office could be headed by Colonel Nicanor Jimenez who was at that serving as special assistant to sitting Ambassador Pelaez.


It was undeniable that retired Colonel Jimenez was the best person to lead the advocacy to solve the emergency on the short run and promote a legislation initiative for Filipino veteran naturalization in the medium term. Colonel Jimenez never made it to the rank of General, but his prestige would easily lend credibility to the effort. He was commander of 14th BCT of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea, which included Second Lieutenant Fidel V. Ramos, who subsequently became President of the Philippines. After he retired from military service, he enabled the Philippine National Railways to run on time as well modernize, introducing such platforms as the historic Bicol Express. His high marks of an achiever eventually enabled him to be named as Philippine Ambassador to Korea.


Nick Jimenez was commissioned to produce a draft for the ad-hoc office. The next day, he stepped into my cubicle adjoining his, and asked that I help him finalize this memorandum for the signature of Ambassador Pelaez. As press attaché, I not only wrote speeches and statements for the ambassador but occasionally finalize policy drafts for his signature. The final memorandum was signed by Pelaez two days thereafter after the finance section headed by Sonny Manghinang identified modest resources that was well within the reach of the ambassador's discretionary funds.


The same document will return to my office for redrafting when we were preparing  for the state visit of President Aquino in 1989. Nick said that we should take advantage not only of the forthcoming presence of the president but those of General Ernesto Gidaya, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office in Manila, Emmanuel V. de Ocampo, president of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, and of Congressmen Oscar Orbos and Ed Pilapil, himself a son of a World War II veteran. The brasses were speakers to the First Filipino War Veterans Conference organized by Ganio's Filipino Veterans Families Foundation, the precursor of what is now ACFV, the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans.


In November 1989, then President Cory Aquino signed in Washington, DC, the Presidential Order formally institutionalizing the Veterans Affairs Office (VAO). Thereafter, Colonel Jimenez had to travel back and forth to Manila, looking for more stable funding for the VAO from the Office of the President and the Department of National Defense and Washington to be at the forefront of lobbying for what is now known as the 1990 Immigration Naturalization Act.


On June 20, 1990, President Aquino designated Nick Jimenez to be the first Veterans Affairs Officer in the Philippine Embassy, really just formalizing recognition of the work that he had already began as early as four years before. Expectedly, he named Pat Ganio as chief adviser on veterans affairs, with Emong Rumingan as service officer, Ramon Navarro for programs and operations, Fred Parawan for Congressional Liaison and Networking, and Ted Liwanag as administrative officer. Mr. Ganio and the four other veterans served as volunteers.

Rodel Rodis, writing for the Philippine News issue of April 21, 2004, recalled "I met Ganio and Rumingan in February of 1997 when I joined them in what was by then a regular lobbying day visiting members of the US Congress. We were accompanied by Eric Lachica, the son of a WWII veteran who quit his job working for a non-profit community organization in Maryland in 1996 to work with Patrick and Guillermo in the ACFV (American Coalition for Filipino Veterans)."


"The coalition was founded in 1995", Rodis continued on, "by Patrick Ganio Sr., 83 a Purple Heart veteran of Bataan and Corregidor who was a Japanese POW, and Guillermo Rumingan, 78, a disabled former Philippine Scout."


Both Ambassador Pelaez and Colonel Jimenez died before they could even see a silver lining on the recognition and concrete benefits of the contribution of Filipino veterans to the Second World War as included in the recent stimulus package signed by President Obama, but the momentum they established were not left in vain by the tireless efforts of the lobbying veterans themselves, the true heroes of this victory that we are now celebrating. # # #


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Last Updated on Friday, 27 February 2009 06:44

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