All out for April 10 National Mobilization

by Jack Vergara Monday, Apr. 10, 2006 at 6:04 AM (213)241-0995 1610 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), an alliance of veterans, community, youth and students organizations in southern California, commemorates the 64th year of the Fall of Bataan, April 9, 1942. It also calls for total and all out support for the April 10 national mobilization for full immigrants rights on April 10 and May 1.

Remember Bataan, Fight for Recognition, Justice and Equity! All out for April 10 National Mobilization

The Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), an alliance of veterans, community, youth and students organizations in southern California, commemorates the 64th year of the Fall of Bataan, April 9, 1942

Today, we mark the Bataan Day. Why is it important to us? April 9 is a national holiday in the Philippines. Bataan became a byword in the United States because the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFFE) resisted the Japanese conquest of the Philippines and held their lines from December 10, 1942 until they were forced to surrender on April 9, 1942.

Many intellectuals ask: Why do we celebrate defeats instead of victories? This make sense but on the other end, why do some historian demean Andres Bonifacio because they said he never won a single battle and instead glorify Emilio Aguinaldo for the battles other people won for him?

We do not remember Bataan just to flagellate ourselves. We remember this defeat to highlight it to the racism and discrimination that our veterans suffer in the country that they served but would not even recognize them.

General Douglas Macarthur himself explained the significance of Bataan and the other battles for the Philippine in these terms: “ The participation of Filipinos shortened the war by 50 days, saving the United States 15 billion dollars ($15 B) and thousands of American lives”

The legacy of Bataan is that the Filipinos and the American forces in the Philippines was left behind to hold the line while the United States reorganized its defenses.

Let us remember it and never forget the Battle for Bataan, the infamous 14 days 55 miles Death March from Marivelss, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga where more than 30,000 soldiers perished.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition, Justice and Equity

But despite this sacrifice, the Rescission Act of 1946, which was a rider in the appropriations act, denied Filipino veterans their right to receive benefits under the GI Bill of Rights when it was passed in February 18, 1946. By a stroke of the pen, the 79th US Congress did not recognize the 250,000 Filipinos who fought for America during World War II. For the last 60 years, Filipinos suffered discrimination and until now are unrecognized as American veterans.

From more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers who fought during the war, there are now only less than 11,000 Filipino veterans in the United States and 54,000 still living veterans in the Philippines. Only 4,000 of them receive regular pensions from the U.S government.

The US Veterans Administration is deliberating undercounting the veterans to ensure that they receive the smallest amount for their budget for Filipino veterans.

The Present Situation of World War II Veterans in the United States

Thus, our struggle is an immigrant issue. JFAV is in solidarity with all immigrants who suffers discrimination and injustice. Of the more than 30,000 Filipino veterans who migrated to the United States from 1991, there are less than 11,000 living in the Untied States. Some 6,000 of them live in California and 4,000 reside in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is the homeless capital of the United States. More than 15,000 homeless live in the streets. Majority of them are African Americans and are veterans of US foreign wars. Most of them have mental health problems, most specifically PTSD.

The latest US Health Study admits that most American veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to People’s Core’s study of Filipino Veterans in 1999 and Filipino Veterans Health Report, 2001there is a big problem on mental health among veterans. This is unreported PTSD. Yet there are no steps taken by government agencies.

-Almost 75 % of the veterans reported problems of loneliness and being alone.
-48% reported crying alone.
-37% reported trying to hurt themselves
-3% contemplate suicide.

The same reports on Filipino veterans health situation described a more depressing picture:

-More than 50% of the respondents reported chronic hypertension; 30% reported high cholesterol and 17% reported having heart disease.
-In the musculoskeletal categories; 63% reported being afflicted with arthritis
-32% chronic general back pain
-45% reported cataracts
-37% reported hearing loss

The 1999 and 2001 Community Reports also recommended the following to alleviate the conditions of Filipino veterans:

-Tailored outreach activities
-Cultural and linguistic competency trainings
-Full veterans benefits
-Hastening of petition process for immigration of relatives
-Low-cost housing

But many of these recommendations remained unanswered. Many of our veterans are now between the ages 80-90, are literally disabled, homeless and dying. They live collectively in rundown apartments. Like their American veteran counterparts who are also mostly homeless, their benefits are also the targets of reduction, extra payments and budget cutbacks. Is this how the United States honor our veterans?

Today, we remember Bataan but we are firm and resolute to struggle for justice. Without Bataan, there could never have been a victory in the Pacific. Thus, we must persevere in our crusade for justice and recognition. Remember Bataan! Fight for recognition, justice and equity! No Justice, No Peace!

Support the National Mobilization for Full immigrants Rights on April 10 and the Great American Boycott on May 1!