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Sep 29th
Home Columns JGL Eye “A Bird in Hand” Lesson for Fil-Am Veterans
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Columns - JGL Eye
Friday, 30 May 2008 04:41




CHICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – Lobbyists and supporters of Filipino Veterans Equity Bill are in cusp of finally lighting their cigars after long years of hard labor – 62 years to be exact.

But a group of Filipino veterans in San Francisco, California, is unwittingly playing the role of a Grinch this summer for these veterans.


I am referring to the Veterans Equity Center, which sent out a press statement that is “seeking support for a comparable bill to SB 1315 (Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act) to be heard in the House” espoused by San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commissioner and Veterans Equity Center Board member, Regalado Baldonado, in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


This means that the SB 1315 would have to be shelved while the "comparable bill" will be debated.


If the Speaker will listen to Mr. Baldonado’s letter, it will mean kissing the SB 1315 goodbye. Why? Because if the Speaker will invoke the “suspension of rules” during the debate, the limited time (40 minutes) available for the debate may not be enough to convince members of the House to vote for the “comparable bill.” If this happens, then, the overwhelming passage of SB 1315 by the Senate will be a big waste.


A group of Filipino veterans in San Francisco is unwittingly playing the role of a Grinch this summer for their peers.

Whereas, if the SB 1315 will be introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (Dem. SD-CA) as is – instead of H.R. 760 (the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill), which is really an upgrade of SB 1315 – all Mr. Filner will tell his colleagues this June is this: “The U.S. Senate as a body has voted overwhelmingly in favor of this bill, why can’t this body do the same without further debate?”



I’m sure even if Rep. Steve Buyer (R-4th-IN), the House counterpart of Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Burr (R-NC), will likewise end up voting for SB 1315 if the “suspension of rules” is invoked by Speaker Pelosi. Why?

Because the reason being used by Rep. Buyer (a ranking House Veterans Affairs member) to oppose SB 1315 is the same – the money to be used for the Filipino veterans will be taken away from the Disabled American veterans – Rep. Buyer’s spokesman Brian Lawrence told me.


As everybody now knows this same reason was soundly rejected by the Senate when it voted for passage of this “budget-neutral” SB 1315, 96-1 last month. The only opposition vote did not even come from Senators Craig or Burr.


I know Mr. Baldonado is supporting the “All or Nothing” tack – that if the U.S. Congress will not pass a bill that will not grant “equal,” if not “comparable benefits,” to both Filipino-American veterans living in the United States and Filipino veterans living in the Philippines, then, the veterans as a whole will be satisfied with receiving nothing at all.


I don’t see anything wrong with this stand that must have been taken from the inseparable motto of the “Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan (One for All; All for One)” because the Filipino-American veterans believe that they could not have succeeded in helping the U.S. Armed Forces topple Japan during World War II without the help of the Filipinos living in the Philippines. But seeking passage of a “comparable bill” will not make much any difference anymore and will just be an exercise in futility.


The veterans, who are now in their early nineties and are dying at the rate of a speeding bullet train, have no more luxury of time to wait well for another 62 years!



For the peace of mind of our Filipino American veterans living in the United States and the Filipino veterans living in the  Philippines, both Filipinos and Americans are guided by same proverb in their daily lives – “A bird in hand is better than two in a bush.” The Filipinos’ version runs like this: “ang naghahangadng kagitna, san salop ang nawawala.” (Those, who crave for half, lose everything.)


If the Filipino veterans living in the Philippines appear shortchanged by SB 1315, they still have other recourse – leave a legacy where they can campaign in the Philippines to amend the Philippine Constitution that, henceforth, the Philippines be declared a neutral country, like Switzerland. This means that if another country like the United States will ask in the future for manpower help to fight a war  with another country, the Philippines will have to reject such entreaty.


Ms. Luisa M. Antonio’s VEC’s press statement was ambivalent – it does not frontally denounce Baldonado’s letter but appears defensive of Baldonado – when it said, “The letter of Commissioner Baldonado, taken in its proper context, reiterated his belief in (the) Equity bill while at the same time seeking support for a comparable bill to SB 1315 to be heard by the House.”



This balimbing (chameleonic) stance has no place in times of crisis and moment of decision as shown by the success of the People Power Revolution when Marcos and his loyalists were toppled from power.


Even, Jesus Christ invokes the same mantra when he said, “He who is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23)


It’s very hard to be a two-timer (namamanka sa dalawang ilog). You can’t eat a cake and have it, too, can you?


If VEC wants public acceptance, it should renounce and denounce the letter of Baldonado if they want to support the SB 1315 for passage by the House. Otherwise, the tone of their ambivalence means that VEC is in favor of killing SB 1315 altogether. Ms. Antonio said that Bardonado’s letter was  not “the reason for the delay in the hearing of the House version of SB 1315” but the wait “for a firm number of both Republicans and Democrats – 290 needed – before calling for a floor vote in the House.”


If so, it would be helpful if VEC would rein in Mr. Baldonado by asking Mr. Baldonado to either withdraw or countermand his letter to Speaker Pelosi asking the Speaker to disregard his letter.


If not, VEC should distance itself from the letter or denounce it. Sometimes, a very flimsy letter could be used as an escape goat in killing a bill whose passage is within everyone’s grasp.

And Filipinos would sigh, “Sayang, naging perang Hapon.” (Too bad, it became <war-time and worthless > Japanese money.) Aray! (Ouch!) # # #

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Last Updated on Friday, 30 May 2008 04:57

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