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Filipino Veterans Victory Soon?

FilAm Star, News Report, Lou Tancinco, Esq. and Elpidio Estioko Posted: May 25, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO --- Filipino World War II veterans scored their first-ever major victory in more than 6 decades when the U.S. Senate voted 96-1 in favor of Senate Bill 1315. The bill gives veterans benefits to Filipinos who fought under the U.S. flag in World War II.

The omnibus bill will afford Filipino veterans living here to receive the same benefits as those of their U.S. veteran counterparts. Veterans residing in the Philippines will receive a monthly special pension of $300 per month.

The Senate approval of this pension fund is the first step towards finally correcting 62 years of injustice, and the House of Representatives needs to follow suit by passing its own version of the bill.

The countrys Filipino community is optimistic that the momentum the Senate has started will continue in the lower house.

The final bill has to be bipartisan, and both Republicans and Democrats are expected to support the bill in the House.

Ideally, the bill should be favorably voted in the House this month of May. This will be made possible when the three lead legislators Representative Bob Filner, chair of the House of Veterans Affairs Committee; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and Representative Mike Honda, majority floor leader and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) -- meet and convene the lower house to deliberate on the bill.

The Houses HR 760 contains a provision that equalizes all veterans benefits among all Filipino veterans in parity with those of the U.S. veterans. This is the bill that contains the full equity and, hopefully, it will be incorporated in the House vote on the floor.

While the National Network for Veterans Equity [NNVE] and the Veterans Equity Center [vec] in San Francisco praised the Senate for the much-awaited development, the two organizations remain vigilant and aggressive in the fight for full equity embodied in HR 760.

Meantime, aggressive lobbying by the different advocacy groupssupporting the veterans is ongoing nationwide.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the NNVE and VEC are leading the community in calling and urging the office of Pelosi to stand uncompromisingly behind the Filipino veterans clamor for full equity.

In an earlier statement, CAPAC chair Honda said: These World War 11 heroes are in the twilight of their lives and time is running out for Congress to fully recognize the sacrifice they made for our country under our flag. All our veterans deserve the best treatment, whether they fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Corregidor. I applaud the Senate for taking a step further to right this wrong by passing this bill.

Honda added that he looks forward to working with colleagues in the House to ensure they eliminate the disparities in benefits for Filipino veterans.

Were a country of promise-makers and we should also be a country of promise- keepers, he said.

For his part, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a CAPAC member who has championed the cause of Filipino veterans for nearly 20 years said: The Senate approval of the benefits for the surviving Filipino veterans is the first step in removing a more than 60-year-old stain on our national honor. They are heroes who served under our flag . and we, as a nation, should not turn our backs on them. They have sacrificed so much for us.

Senator Daniel Akaka, also a member of CAPAC and chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the Senate, on the other hand, said: The Filipino veterans of World War II fought bravely under U.S. military command, only to lose their veterans status by an act of Congress. I am also very pleased that the Veterans Benefits Enhancements Act of 2007 can finally move forward. I urge my colleagues in the House to act swiftly on this much needed bill.

Assuming the House passes the bill, it is then forwarded to the White House for signature of the president.

The NNVE anticipates that President Bush will not veto the bill, especially if the overwhelming majority in the House votes favorably, just like the 96-1 Senate vote.

Photo by Eric Lachica/ACFV

FilAm Star is one of the country's newest Filipino-American community newspapers which launched just last January. It's initially a bi-weekly broadsheet primarily circulated in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last February also, it became the first and only community paper that is part of the in-flight reading materials distributed by Philippine Airlines on its San Francisco-Manila flights.

Related Articles:

Senate Finally Approves Filipino Veteran Benefits

U.S. Senate Approves Pension for Filipino WWII Vets

Forgotten Filipino Vets Still Waiting for Equity

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