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The fight for Filipino veterans' equity: A struggle against racism

by Justice for Filipino Amertican Veterans Sunday, May. 18, 2008 at 3:54 PM
jfav_causa@yahoo.com 213-241-0995 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

After 63 years, the U.S. Senate finally passed the Veterans Expanded Benefits Bill on April 24 with a vote of 96 to 1. But can this act of Congress giveA back justice and equity for Filipino veterans who were denied their rights for 63 long years? The Philippines was a colony of the United States when World War II broke out in 1941. In a hurry to defend its colonial possessions in the Pacific, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt formed the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and integrated the 70,000-strong Commonwealth Army of the Philippines into the 30,000-troop U.S. army in the Philippines on July 26, 1941.

The fight for Filipi...
dscf2175.jpg, image/jpeg, 2592x1944

The fight for Filipino veterans' equity: A struggle against racism



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

By: Arturo P. Garcia



The author is a member of the Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines.

Los Angeles-- After 63 years, the U.S. Senate finally passed the Veterans Expanded Benefits Bill on April 24 with a vote of 96 to 1. But can this act of Congress giveA back justice and equity for Filipino veterans who were denied their rights for 63 long years?



The Philippines was a colony of the United States when World War II broke out in 1941. In a hurry to defend its colonial possessions in the Pacific, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt formed the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and integrated the 70,000-strong Commonwealth Army of the Philippines into the 30,000-troop U.S. army in the Philippines on July 26, 1941.

Conscription by force

With this act of conscription, the Philippines became the largest U.S. army garrison outside of the United States, with almost 120,000 ill-equipped troops. This was proven when the United States abandoned the defense of the Philippines and ordered General MacArthur to leave and defend Australia in March 1942. Bataan fell after a four-month siege, and later the whole Philippines on May 6, 1942.

But Filipinos formed independent guerilla armies and fought the Japanese for three years. One of the largest groups that fought the Japanese was the HUKBALAHAP, or the people’s anti-Japanese guerilla, army under command of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Even though the United States government abandoned the Philippines to Japan, the Filipinos fought valiantly against fascism and lost more than a million people during the war.

These guerillas swelled the ranks of the U.S.-led forces to almost 500,000 during liberation and the reoccupation of the Philippines from 1944 to1945. Filipinos enlisted in the U.S. Army and helped in the battle for the liberation of the Philippines during that period and even served as occupation forces in Japan after the war.

Betrayal by the U.S., R.P. governments

Directly after the war, six months before the United States gave the Philippines nominal independence, the 79th U.S. Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946 declaring that "the military services of Filipinos [was] deemed inactive." In order words, Filipino soldiers were stripped of their veteran status.

The Rescission Act of Feb. 18, 1946, was a rider inside the appropriations law that scaled down the U.S. armed forces from 20 million to 5 million and gave all the excess war materials to their allied nations after World War II. By the stroke of a pen, the Filipino veterans lost their rights and privileges under the G.I Bill.

The puppet Filipino government kept quiet because of U.S. pressure, fearful of losing U.S. reparations needed to rebuild the Philippines. All the Philippine presidents from 1946 until Ferdinand Marcos misrepresented the issue of veterans equity as an issue of "back pay" and "reparations," choosing to beg U.S. Congress for "war damages claims" for the next 50 years.

It was only through the active advocacy of Filipino veterans associations and social justice groups like People’s CORE and AJLPP in the United States that revived the struggle for equity and justice in early 1980s. The Filipino American and the Asian communities picked up the issues and fought for reforms and benefits in the late 1980s.

In 1990s, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Reform Act. The law enabled 30,000 Filipino veterans to gain U.S. citizenship by naturalization. But they were not recognized as American veterans and were not given Social Security benefits. The situation created more problems for Filipino veterans in the United States and the Filipino community.

In 1993, the first political demonstration of more than 600 Filipino veterans was held in Los Angeles. Since then, the struggle for equity and justice and against racism has taken a more active form and content and has been integrated into the community struggle.

Of the original 200,000 Filipino World War II veterans who fought side by side with the U.S. veterans, most are now octogenarians and barely 18,000 are alive. More than one million Filipinos died during World War II.

Struggle and work ahead

"Our work has just begun. Our next target will be the House of Representatives, to pass the bill and give justice, equity and correct the errors of racism for the Filipino World War II veterans," said Arturo Garcia, Justice for Filipino American Veterans and People’s CORE coordinator.

Senator Inouye in his very emotional speech reminded legislators of the bravery of Filipino soldiers during the Bataan Death March. According to Inouye, "For their courage and contributions during World War II, the Filipino veterans deserve to live in dignity and that passing the bill shall restore their honor."

Senator Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs, has shown full support not only to the Filipino veterans but to all U.S. war veterans. He said that the "passage of S.1315 is ... the right thing to do."

For more than half a century, Filipino World War II veterans have been seeking just and equal recognition as U.S. veterans. House Bill HR 760 should continue to gain support from legislators in the House with the passage of S.1315 in the Senate.

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SUPPORT VETERANS EQUITY STRUGGLE

by Justice for Filipino Amertican Veterans Sunday, May. 18, 2008 at 3:54 PM
jfav_causa@yahoo.com 213-241-0995 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

SUPPORT VETERANS EQU...
dscf2184.jpg, image/jpeg, 2592x1944

t was only through the active advocacy of Filipino veterans associations and social justice groups like People’s CORE and AJLPP in the United States that revived the struggle for equity and justice in early 1980s. The Filipino American and the Asian communities picked up the issues and fought for reforms and benefits in the late 1980s.

Report this post as:

Equity and Justice, Now!

by Justice for Filipino Amertican Veterans Sunday, May. 18, 2008 at 3:54 PM
jfav_causa@yahoo.com 213-241-0995 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Equity and Justice, ...
img_1461-resized.jpgkb8h75.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x450



"Our work has just begun. Our next target will be the House of Representatives, to pass the bill and give justice, equity and correct the errors of racism for the Filipino World War II veterans," said Arturo Garcia, Justice for Filipino American Veterans and People’s CORE coordinator.
Report this post as:

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