LOS Angeles – THE highly successful annual justice march for Filipino World War II veterans, better known here as the Hollywood march, is all set for tomorrow, November 11.
Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) National Coordinator Al P. Garcia said participants to the 17th annual Veterans Day March would be assembling at the corner of Ivar St. and Hollywood Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The veterans, widows of veterans and their family members would meet at the Filipino Cultural Center (FCC) at 1740 W Temple St., Los Angeles and ferried to Ivar St. corner Hollywood Boulevard.
Garcia added that this year’s Hollywood march is special because it would also mark the 75th Anniversary of the April 9, 1942 Fall of Bataan and the infamous “Death March” that followed the surrender of United States Army of the Far East (USAFFE) forces to the invading Japanese army.
The marchers, according to Garcia, would be doing five symbolic stops to commemorate the five times that the marching American and Filipino soldiers were allowed to stop during the grueling 70-mile march by their captors.
The Japanese Imperial Army forcibly made some 80,000 captured Allied soldiers march under the sweltering heat of the sun from Bagac, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac.
The forcible march began on April 9, 1942 after a three-month battle in the mountains of Bataan. It is estimated that around 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino died while around 700 Americans died during the march.
The march was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a war crime because of the abuses and wanton killings that happened during the march.
Despite the sacrifices of Filipino fighters in particular and the Filipino people in general, the United States Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946 which deprived the Filipino veterans of their rights and benefits as members of the United States armed forces.
Of the 66 countries that fought with the US during WW II, only Filipinos were stripped of benefits.
This year marks the 71st year that Filipino WWII veterans started their fight for recognition and the thrashing of the rescission law.
In a related development, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) has recently introduced H.R. 3865, the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2017.
“This bill rights a shameful wrong created when Congress rescinded a promise to Filipino veterans of World War II over 70 years ago,” Rep. Speier said.
“I will not rest until these heroes, and their families, receive the benefits they need and deserve. If America won’t live up to its honor and duty to our allies and friends we may find ourselves alone in our next hour of need.”
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained a provision that provided a lump sum payment of $15,000 for Filipino veterans who are now U.S. citizens and $9,000 for non-citizens. But there have been problems with the implementation of this payment program.
To be eligible, a veteran has to be on the so-called “Missouri List,” an Army roster of eligible veterans. The Missouri List is incomplete. A 1973 fire destroyed 80 percent of the records for Army personnel from 1912 to 1960. As a result, over 17,000 Filipino veterans have had their claims denied.
The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act directs the VA to take into account alternative military documentation to determine eligibility.
“The Recovery Act payments were a start, but our nation must bestow the full status it promised these veterans in wartime,” Speier concluded.