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Home Columns San Diego Happenings Ex-President Ramos Visits with San Diego’s Fil-Am Veterans
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Thursday, 22 May 2008 02:13

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Thursday, May 22, 2008 

Fidel V. Ramos, the four-star general before he became President of the Philippines, was in San Diego yesterday (Wednesday, May 21) waxing optimistic about the passage of legislation in the US Congress restoring honor and dignity to Filipino World War II veterans. Before he left for Los Angeles after a meeting with local leaders, the 80-year-old hero of the popular revolt that toppled his cousin Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 issued marching orders to the veterans: "Please don't die".


FIGHT FOR EQUITY AND JUSTICE

FVR Issues Last Marching Orders to Filipino Veterans: 'Please Don't Die'

 

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

 

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


Eighty-year-old Fidel V. Ramos, a former four-star general before he became President of the Philippines, barked what could be the last marching orders for a generation of soldiers he had fought and lived with: "Please don't die!".

 

One of the acknowledged heroes of a popular revolt that toppled his cousin Ferdinand Marcos and his dictatorial rule in the Philippines in 1986, former President Ramos issued his order half-jokingly to a military subordinate, Col. Romy Monteyro, a retired Army colonel leading San Diego-based veterans in the fight for equity.

 

"The order is, 'Please don't die'," he repeated, putting a smile on the faces of those present at a small gathering Wednesday (May 21) at the office of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) in National City which Mr. Ramos visited as part of a 16-day trip to the United States.

 

Even as it was said in jest, the meaning was not lost among the 30-odd veterans who are members of the Filipino Veterans of World War II of San Diego headed by Col. Manuel Braga -- most of them are in their mid-80's, their fast-thinning ranks being decimated by age and poor health.

 

At this point when victory is almost at hand, dying was not an option, retired General Ramos was saying essentially. He enjoined them to live up to 100 by wisecracking to reach age 99.

 

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Volume 2, Issue No. 12 / 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  . . .

From more than a quarter of a million hardy souls conscripted to fight America's war against the Japanese in 1942, the number has sunk through the years to a mere 18,000 veterans, 12,000 of them living in the Philippines. The other 6,000 are scattered all over the US.

 

"The war was not of the making of the Filipinos; we were just dragged into it," Mr. Ramos said, stressing that an estimated one-million Filipinos had died in that war.

 

"Tayo nag-sakripisyo," he bellowed in Tagalog to highlight the fact of the inequity and injustice of the Rescission Act of 1946 which took away all the benefits befitting Filipino veterans.

 

The US Congress is on the verge of restoring those benefits in proposed legislations in both the Senate and the House.

 

The Senate version, S.1315, also known as the Veterans Benefit Enhancement Act of 2007 which incorporates the Filipino Veterans Equity bill, was passed in April by a 96-1 vote. The House could either adopt it or pass a similar measure to speed up the process.

 

"The war was not of the making of the Filipinos; we were just dragged into it," Mr. Ramos said, stressing that an estimated one-million Filipinos had died in that war.

 Former President Ramos said he had been informed that a final bill was being readied for signing into law on or before Memorial Day in the US, which is Monday, May 26. Of the more than a dozen bills enacted recently, however, none was for the exclusive benefit of Filipino veterans.

 

Still, Mr. Ramos was optimistic. "I'm happy to hear all this good news coming from the US Congress," he said. "Napakalakas ng suporta," he stated, referring to Congressman Bob Filner's sponsorship of the House version of the bill.

 

The delay in the grant of veterans benefits has been due to a lack of understanding among policy-makers in Washington, according to Mr. Ramos, who is also visiting Clinton, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Francisco.

 

Mr. Ramos was accompanied by Philippine Consul General Mary Jo Aragon and a few of the consular staff. They were welcomed by COPAO president Rita Andrews.

 

(Romeo P. Marquez, the editor of the Philippine Village Voice, San Diego, California, can be reached at this address: P.O. Box 2118, La Jolla, CA. 92038.)



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Last Updated on Thursday, 22 May 2008 02:17
 

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