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A Posthumous Concern, Another kind of Racism

by Justice for Filipino American veterans (JFAV) Monday, Sep. 29, 2008 at 9:15 AM
jfav_causa@yahoo.com 213-241-0995 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

VETERANS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES in the Far East (Usaffe) here at home and in America thought that, at long last, the US Congress was poised to pass legislation addressing their generations-old claim for benefits. But as the American economy unraveled, politicians began sniping at the bills (pending before the US Congress) aimed at increasing the benefits of Filipino veterans. Filipino-American veterans groups and lobbyists began to fear that the promise to bring the bill to a vote in the US House of Representatives would fall by the wayside. No one, of course, predicted that the US Congress would be plunged into a crisis atmosphere by US President George W. Bush’s proposed bailout, which the US Senate and House Democrats have agreed to, but whose approval has been delayed and, possibly, foiled by a group of House Republicans anxious they will be defeated in November if they vote for a bailout.

JFAV Update

Sept. 26, 2008

A posthumous concern

Editorial of PDI

Manila--VETERANS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES in the Far East (Usaffe) here at home and in America thought that, at long last, the US Congress was poised to pass legislation addressing their generations-old claim for benefits.

But as the American economy unraveled, politicians began sniping at the bills (pending before the US Congress) aimed at increasing the benefits of Filipino veterans.

Filipino-American veterans groups and lobbyists began to fear that the promise to bring the bill to a vote in the US House of Representatives would fall by the wayside.

No one, of course, predicted that the US Congress would be plunged into a crisis atmosphere by US President George W. Bush’s proposed bailout, which the US Senate and House Democrats have agreed to, but whose approval has been delayed and, possibly, foiled by a group of House Republicans anxious they will be defeated in November if they vote for a bailout.

Filipino veterans, as we’ve pointed out, have spent 60 years begging the US Congress to restore the benefits taken away from them.

Their benefits have been restored, in dribbles, and under conditions no self-respecting American veteran would even be asked: foremost among the requirements being adopting US citizenship.

If Filipino veterans faced wholesale exclusion from the benefits given GIs, then the refusal of the US government to consider revoking the Recission Act points to a kind of legislated Jim Crow for Filipino veterans. They would, in small increments, approach -- but never achieve -- equality.

Ironically, the slow but steady migration of Filipino veterans to the United States has not created a formidable enough constituency to demand action from American legislators.

In recent months, lobbyists focused on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asking her to exercise leadership in her chamber by holding a vote.

But relying on Pelosi ignores the reality that the US House is a mosaic of special interests, and Fil-Am veterans seem incapable of mustering the clout required to push things to a vote.

And now, with a grand showdown in the US Congress -- a showdown that’s being proclaimed a make-or-break moment for the future of American capitalism -- the fate of the dwindling ranks of Usaffe veterans won’t merit attention.

The reason, of course, was mentioned by Sen. John McCain during his recent debate with fellow Sen. Barack Obama. Since the United States invaded Iraq, there has been a scandal involving the maltreatment -- poor funding, incompetent management, and so on -- of American veterans of the present conflict.

The entire veterans’ administration bureaucracy has been taken to task as callous, under-funded, mismanaged and a general scandal to behold. Yet any improvements -- and McCain has simply proposed putting a freeze on most US government expenses except for a few exceptions, in which he includes veterans’ benefits -- would again be aimed at American citizens and leave the relics of World War II in the Philippines by the wayside.

All the tireless lobbyists working for Fil-Am veterans’ benefits knew that they were getting crumbs while the US government struggled to wiggle out of its historic and moral obligations to the Philippine Army soldiers drafted to serve under the Allied colors.

A tactical approach to securing benefits by a concession here and an inclusion there, while sidestepping the moral nature of the whole controversy, seemed poised to pay off last year and earlier this year.

Now, all that has started to recede. The blunt, harsh, tragic reality is that never did our veterans come close to a substantive recognition of their rights, as they did over the past years, and never have they been farther away from it as they are now.

This means veterans may have to come to terms with the bitter reality that some have been luckier than others but most will go to their graves with a raw deal from the Philippine and American governments.

The fight will soon enough, simply by attrition, be their children’s and grandchildren’s fight; what moral victory the veterans obtain will come too late. The veterans will eternally be the grim, gaunt, battling basta

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