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Home Sections Filipino-Veterans' Lobby The U.S. Senate Restores Filipino Veterans' Dignity and Honor
The U.S. Senate Restores Filipino Veterans' Dignity and Honor PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Filipino-Veterans' Lobby
Friday, 25 April 2008 01:21

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Friday, April 25, 2008 
 
The twilight years are upon these brave and hardy folks. And for two generations after the Second World War, they waited almost in vain. On Thursday, April 24, the long wait is practically ended when the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation granting Filipino veterans their rightful benefits taken from them in 1946. The bill is up for debate in the House where it is expected to pass. Soon it'll be ready for President Bush's signature.  


RESTORING DIGNITY AND HONOR 

Bill Granting Benefits to Filipino World War II Veterans Now in the US House of Representatives After It Hurdles Senate 

 

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

 

The author is a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.

SAN DIEGO - "The tragedy of Bataan," said wartime Philippine President Jose P. Laurel in the book The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave, "taught the bitter lesson that the United States used the lives of the Filipinos to defend purely American interests".

 

That "bitter lesson" continued to reverberate more than sixty years later and took the form of the Rescission Act of 1946 which, as if their painful sacrifices had not been enough, had stripped surviving Filipino fighters of their dignity and honor.

 

Now bent by age but unbowed by the indignities heaped by the US Congress and President Harry Truman, the remaining 18,000 out of nearly half a million Filipino conscripts are poised to witness their formal makeover as soldiers and co-equals.

 

That appears clear on the horizon now after the US Senate on Thursday (April 24) passed the omnibus legislation (S. 1315) restoring veteran status to Filipino warriors who fought with the Americans in World War II and granting them benefits.

 

The Senate approval by a 96-1 vote was not without a struggle. The legislation had been languishing in the legislative freezer for quite some time while Filipino veterans supporters and advocates hoped and prayed US lawmakers would realize the continued injustice.

 

Senator Daniel K. Akaka had to invoke the  rarely-used parliamentary practice of cloture to essentially remove procedural roadblocks that had stalled discussion of the bill.

 

Once cloture was resorted to, the bill goes up for consideration for 30 hours during which time the Senate votes. The required majority is three-fifths of the whole number of Senators, which is 60. In the case of S.1315, a total of 96 voted to pass the bill.

 

Monetary, service benefits and other entitlements are packaged in the bill, among them, the same amount of pension as that of their US counterparts. For those in the Philippines, they will receive a monthly pension of US$375 for veterans with spouse; US$300 for single veterans; and US$200 for surviving spouses.

 

Washington, DC-based Philippine Ambassador to the US Willy Gaa said the bill "corrects the injustice done to Filipino WWII veterans."

 

"This is indeed a momentous occasion and a historical moment, a vindication for our long suffering veterans whose tremendous patience and fortitude has finally been duly rewarded," Ambassador Gaa said in a press statement to the Philippine Village Voice.

"With this development, we look forward to a similar development to happen at the U.S. House of Representatives, as we move closer to finally achieving justice and equity for the Filipino WWII Veterans," he added.

 

Also in Washington, Jon Melegrito, spokesman for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), said the bill now moves to the House of Representatives for debate and a floor vote.

 

"If it passes intact, it will then go to President Bush for his signature," he explained in a press statement furnished the Philippine Village Voice.

 

The Senate, according to Melegrito, struck down an amendment introduced by Richard Burr, ranking minority leader of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

 

"By a vote of 56 to 41, Senators rejected Burr's proposal that would have denied pension benefits to Filipino veterans in the Philippines. Burr needed 49 votes for his amendment to pass. Six Republicans joined the Democrats in rejecting what was widely viewed as a highly discriminatory act against Filipino veterans," Melegrito reported.

 

NaFFAA Chair Alma Q. Kern hailed the passage of the bill. "This is a great day for our veterans. It has restored our faith in the American justice system. Our veterans have waited more than 60 years, and now they are closer than ever to regaining their honor and dignity".

 

She called on the Filipino American community to call members of the House of Representatives and urge them to support the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. "We have to see this campaign through to the finish," she adds. "It's up to us to make this happen.".  

Kern said: "I'm very hearted by our community's response, flooding the various offices in Congress with e-mails, phone calls and visits. We couldn't have done this without your support."

 

She also thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senators Daniel Akaka, Daniel Inouye, Ted Stevens for their consistent championing of Filipino veterans equity. # # #

 

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Volume 2, Issue No. 9 / News Without Fear or Favor /

. . . A community service of San Diego's Philippine Village Voice (PhilVoiceNews@aol.com or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public. . .



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Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2008 01:29
 

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