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L.A. Fil-Am vets rally draws over 500

by Balita News Service Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007 at 5:08 PM
jfav_la@yahoo.com 213-421-0906 1610 Beverly Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90026

Nearly 600 students and supporters gathered to march for Filipino Veterans’ rights on Nov. 11 in Historical Filipinotown. The event, organized by the coalition group Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), was the seventh annual march aiming to raise community awareness about H.R. 1315, a bill that would grant Filipino veterans pension for their involvement in World War II. Supporters of the bill, which has yet to be approved by both the Lower House and the Senate before being signed into law by the President, are hoping that the rally will cause enough attention to the issue before Congress adjourns its session for the year on Nov. 16, or at the very least, to get an extension until December. Another bill being pushed for approval along with these benefits is the family reunification bill, which veterans would use to expedite the immigration process for family members still remaining in the Philippines.

L.A. Fil-Am vets rally draws over 500

November 20, 2007

BY KATRINA ROMERO

Balita News Service

LOS ANGELES—Nearly 600 students and supporters gathered to march for Filipino Veterans’ rights on Nov. 11 in Historical Filipinotown. The event, organized by the coalition group Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), was the seventh annual march aiming to raise community awareness about H.R. 1315, a bill that would grant Filipino veterans pension for their involvement in World War II.

Supporters of the bill, which has yet to be approved by both the Lower House and the Senate before being signed into law by the President, are hoping that the rally will cause enough attention to the issue before Congress adjourns its session for the year on Nov. 16, or at the very least, to get an extension until December. Another bill being pushed for approval along with these benefits is the family reunification bill, which veterans would use to expedite the immigration process for family members still remaining in the Philippines.

To get this attention, supporters converged from universities spanning from Oxnard to San Diego. Student supporters included those from UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, Loyola Marymount University LMU, Cal State San Marcos, Cal Poly Pomona and others. Bystanders came out of homes and church services to watch the mostly student crowd as they marched through the streets of Historic Filipinotown, armed with posters and flags and chanting phrases like “Don’t say no-no to my lolo!” and “We want justice, we want it now!”

Among those present to represent the veterans was WWII Fil-Am veteran Franco Arcebal, vice president of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans in Washington D.C. Standing in front of the crowd, he recounted why the Philippines had become involved in the war between the United States and Japan.

“We were loyal to the Americans,” he said. “We were trained from childhood about democracy, freedom, loving one another; we did not see this from the Japanese.”

But despite his respect for the United States, Arcebal remained adamant as to the neglect that Fil-Am veterans had experienced in spite of their U.S. loyalty, calling supporters to heed attention as to why the bill had to be passed.

“We fight the U.S. Congress to give us justice,” he said, “to give us the benefits that are due us, not tomorrow but today—now!”

“You must make your voices loud,” he encouraged the crowd because the voices of the Filipino veteran are very little. America won’t listen to us, and only about 18,000 of the 400,000 remain alive. Every day people are dying,” he said. “Many of them never tasted the benefits. The veterans here today are a testament to those remaining.”

One of these survivors present was 78-year-old Faustino Baclig, WWII survivor and Bataan Death March survivor. Speaking in front of the crowd, Baclig implored the crowd to continue fighting, if not for his sake then for the future.

“My dear friends, if we cannot get equity and justice during our lifetime, please pick up the cudgels for us and fight until you have it. And when you have it, please be vigilant to keep it,” Baclid said. “You don’t have to be complacent because you’re living the good life. That good life may be cut at any time; so please do this for you, not for us, because to us now it doesn’t matter whether we get the justice or not—we are just in the late departure of our last days in this world, but when we were young we accepted the job we were ordered to do; we did it right and we did it well and good for you.

“My dear friends, do it for yourself,” he continued. “We want to become one voice, one Filipino youngster among you to be able to speak up in the wall of any government in this world, against justice denied to us, privileges that were never given to us, so that you well reap it when you grow old, as we are.”

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