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Home Sections Filipino-Veterans' Lobby US Congressman Hits Scam Artist Victimizing Filipino Veterans
US Congressman Hits Scam Artist Victimizing Filipino Veterans PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Filipino-Veterans' Lobby
Saturday, 14 July 2007 02:01

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Saturday, 14 July 2007

~~ The fight for benefits for Filipino veterans took a surprising turn when Congressman Bob Filner denounced an Arlington, Virginia, man for perpetrating what he called a scam. The San Diego lawmaker is finishing up the House version of a bill granting full equity benefits to all Filipino veterans, whether in the US or in the Philippines.

CONGRESSMAN BOB FILNER SPEAKS OUT:

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

SAN DIEGO - Congressman Bob Filner (D-51st District) assailed the practice of a Filipino American lobbyist of collecting fees from Filipino veterans for a service his office gives for free, saying it was "a scam" that bilks them of government monetary assistance.

"It's terrible, what he's doing," said the San Diego lawmaker, pointing to the highly-visible Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV)based in Arlington, Virginia, which boasts of having 4,000 members.

In a rare display of contempt, Filner said Lachica was "the one who sold us out" in congressional deliberations by pruning down veterans' demand for full equity to the detriment of the great majority of veterans in the United States and the Philippines.

"He (Lachica) lives off these vulnerable people," Filner said on Thursday (July 5) during a meeting in his office with Col. Romy Monteyro, adviser of the Filipino World War II Veterans Foundation of San Diego, and Commander Manuel B. Braga, who heads the group.

Filner took the occasion to acknowledge Monteyro, chair of the recently-formed congressional lobby group NAFVE (National Alliance for Veterans Equity), as his "dancing partner" -- his metaphor to describe the significant role he plays in the ongoing campaign to secure full benefits for all Filipino veterans currently in the United States and those in the Philippines.

"Lachica is in some scams," Filner stressed. "He's doing what I do for free; what the Department of Veterans Affairs do for free. It's ridiculous," he added.

Contacted for comment, Lachica said he had been sick and pointed to the ACFV vice president for membership, Franco Arcebal, in Los Angeles to answer the interview questions.

This reporter has held on to the story for almost a week to afford him the chance to clarify the issues. On the deadline set for him to reply, which was Tuesday, July 10, Lachica said: "been down w/ allergies & bronchitis for a few days".

Lachica had been expected in San Diego on Saturday, July 7 for a meeting with his supporters. Those who went to the meeting said Lachica didn't show up.

Nonetheless, the attendees raised some money, as they were apparently told by Lachica, for air fare to Washington, DC supposedly for the signing of the bill approved by the Senate committee.

"Pipirmahan na daw ni President Bush (the president will sign the bill)," one of the veterans said, quoting what they had been told would happen on July 27. But the legislation is not up for signing until the Senate and House versions were reconciled into one.

Lachica's known contacts in San Diego, notably Joann Fields of the local chapter of National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), did not reply to queries. Fields recently led a group of Filipino veterans in a candlelight vigil apparently to seek divine help for the veterans benefits.


Monteyro said he has told Filipino veterans: "Don't pay him (Lachica). The service (he's doing) is free, absolutely free."

Information from veterans who declined to be identified said they were asked to pay $100 for membership plus the occasional costs of his travels and lobbying. They also disclosed that as executive director of ACFV, Lachica receives a salary.

Bobby Reyes, a son of a veteran who lives in Los Angeles, said he was a "victim" of what he calls the "ACFV scam". He recalled an event in San Francisco in March 2002 when he and several others gave $100 each as life-time membership fee in the ACFV.


After that, he said he never heard again from Lachica and his ACFV.


Reyes said he has "personally interviewed some Filipino-American veterans in Los Angeles and they claimed that they had been contributing $10 to $20 per month per head to Mr. Lachica to fund his so-called lobbying activities in the District of Columbia".


"So far," he continued, "Mr. Lachica has produced not even a single financial report about his and the ACFV fundraising activities".

In the many years that Filner has advocated for Filipino veterans, this is the first time that he took a direct swipe at one of the most visible lobbyists for the cause. "It's a scam," he said of Lachica's work.

"The Filipino veterans don't need Eric Lachica. He lives off these vulnerable people," Filner emphasized. He asked that Lachica makes an accounting of the monies he collected from veterans.

Lachica is perhaps the most-photographed son of a veteran who has taken an active role in the fight for benefits. His success in lobbying is in getting what critics called "bread crumbs" -- paltry doleouts for the short haul and small panacea to ease temporary hardships.

Filner said Lachica's insistence on getting these sets of benefits for the veterans has given other lawmakers a "convenient cover" to diffuse the demands and lower them instead of providing full equity benefits.

"Now we have to compromise with the compromise after he sold us out," Filner stated.

At one point during the meeting, Filner referred to Lachica as "toxic" to the cause, meaning he has poisoned and undermined the efforts of groups bigger than his ACFV, whose president, Patrick Ganio Sr., is considered the nominal head.

Sometime ago, Lachica testified that veterans in the Philippines needed only $200 to survive, a statement that cheapened the veterans themselves and their cause, according to Filner.

Both Lachica and Ganio are being blamed for the failure of the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committed headed by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) to pass a full equity bill for all the Filipino veterans.

Filner said he is preparing the House version of a bill similar to what the US Senate Veterans Affairs committee under Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) has reported out last week, which provides full equity benefits for US-based veterans.

San Diego veterans commander Manuel B. Braga, meanwhile, said he had apprised NaFFAA chair Alma Q. Kerns about Lachica's activities when she showed up at a veterans meeting in San Diego hosted by the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO), which is itself mired in monetary scandals.

"I told her that Lachica is a fake and he's doing all these dubious things," Braga said in an interview. To which Kerns reportedly replied: "So what I'm hearing is correct," according to Braga. He said they were conversing in the presence of Col. Monteyro.

For its part, NAFVE has launched a nationwide drive to raise $100,000 to cover campaign costs, office expenses and salaries of two legislative consultants to drum up support for the equity bill, according to Jon Melegrito, co-chair of NAFVE's steering committee.

"This is a one-time fundraiser for this year’s campaign only," he explains, assuring that names of donors and an income/expense report will be posted as a guarantee of transparency.

Melegrito said NAFVE has so far collected "about one fourth" of its target.

Retired US Colonel Frank B. Quesada, a veteran and staunch advocate for full benefits, ridiculed Lachica and Melegrito, calling them "pretenders".


"What is this clown (referring to Melegrito) talking about?" he asked.


Quesada also claimed that Lachica "has been banned by the Department of Justice from interfering with veteran’s affairs here and in the Philippines".


"Representatives Filner, (Mike) Honda and (Darrell) Issa, and Senators (Daniel) Akaka and (Daniel) Inouye have distanced themselves from these clowns knowing the truth about them," Quesada said.

 Congressman Bob Filner discusses the veterans equity bill with Col. Romy Monteyro during a meeting at his congressional office in Chula Vista, California.

Congressman Bob Filner discusses the veterans equity bill with his acknowledged "dancing partner" Col. Romy Monteyro during a meeting at his congressional office in Chula Vista, California on Thursday, July 5. At the same function Filner denounced Eric Lachica of the America Coalition for Filipino Veterans.

BREAKING NEWS - The Big Scoop
Issue No. 45 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, 20 July 2007 07:44
 

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