HUNDREDS of Filipino Americans, mostly youths, held a protest rally last Nov. 11 in the world famous Hollywood street to denounce an act of racism that happened 70 years ago, and has not been fully rectified since, against the Filipino World War II veterans, a belated report said yesterday.
Organized by Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), the annual rally was jovial in some ways but nevertheless orderly and resolute in demanding for the full restoration of compensation for the Filipino veterans.
On makeshift stage on top of a truck, Eddy M. Gana, chairperson Kabataan maka-Bayan or Pro-people youth, led the Filipino American crowd in chanting:
Don’t say no to my lolo, give them equity now;
Makibaka huwag matakot, Huwag matakot! Makibaka!
Some 80 organizations endorsed the 16th year of JFAV demonstration.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. We believe that it is time for our veterans to get what they deserved,” said retired Philippine military official Lino Caringal, president of the Pangasinan Brotherhood.
Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), brought their vintage Filipino jeepney to the demonstration.
“We are here for the dignity of the Filipinos. All of us, deserve equity and respect. This is an issue for all of us Filipinos,” Versoza explained.
More than 250,000 Filipinos enlisted into the U.S. military during World War II. They were promised health and pension benefits identical to that of other American soldiers who fought alongside with them.
However after war, the United States’s Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946 which retroactively annulled benefits that would have been payable to Filipino troops on account of their military service during the time that the Philippines was a U.S. territory and Filipinos were U.S nationals.
JFAV national coordinator Art Garcia said the US government has so far only granted what he called “band aid fix” to the issue of the Filipino veterans.
In 2009, the veterans received lump sum payments of $9,000 for WW II veterans living in the Philippines and $15,000 for those in the United States.
Still, only half of the 41,000 who have filed claims have received their compensation allegedly because of “poor documentation and keeping of records.”
There are fewer than 18,000 living WW II Filipino veterans — and their widows.
There is a pending bill in the United States House of Representatives that seeks to recognize the service of Filipino veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal. The said bill, the Filipino Veterans of World War Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, was approved by the Senate in July.