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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Filipino and American War Vets

The battle of Bataan and Corregidor during the World War II has displayed the gallantry of Filipino and American soldiers who had fought side by side. It was one momentous time in history when Filipinos and Americans were literally one in life and blood.

When losing the battle became imminent, General Douglas McArthur left Bataan although he made the promise “I shall return.” He orphaned the Filipino and American soldiers. Greatly demoralized due to lack of supply and disease, eventually, they fell in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. They endured the Death March and the suffering from war prison in Capas, Tarlac. In 1946, when General McArthur returned and retook the Philippine Islands from Japanese occupation, history taught that America returned indeed. However, it seemed that they returned only for their soldiers but they had left Filipino soldiers behind. The promised compensation had since then been forgotten. It is not all about the money but the honor and pride of equity between brothers in arms.

The Stimulus Bill President Obama signed last year provided US$198 Million for Filipino World War II Veterans. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the benefit for Filipino Veterans who aided American troops in World War II - a cash payment authorized through the newly enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Filipino Veterans are eligible for one-time payments of $9,000 for non-US citizens and $15,000 for Filipino Veterans with US citizenship.

We are thankful about the monetary assistance to the old and feeble veterans who are now approaching the sunset of life. However, the assistance covers only the veterans who are still alive when they file their claim. It does not cover the legal beneficiaries of those veterans who have already died waiting for their rightful compensation. The government of America, in 1941, has promised to pay the Filipino soldiers who would join the United States Armed Force in the Far East (USAFFE) equal benefits with the American soldiers but the US government has failed to fulfill that promise.

The Senate of the United States has continually rejected the Equity Bill for Filipino Veterans of World War II. Only the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that gives a one-time lump sum payment to Filipino Veterans has passed the US Senate. The Filipino veterans are thankful but that one-time payment is the end of America’s responsibility to them. I think it is not enough.

Nevertheless, there is still reason to be thankful to the new President of America for signing into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which gave recognition to the gallantry of the Filipino veterans of World War II. If only for that, long live America!

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