Thursday, February 05, 2009

President Gloria and Senator can have the Obama photo op, but Senator Gordon will hopefully score one for Filipino WWII Veterans

There is much ado about Senator Francis Escudero and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanting to have a photo op with recently inaugurated US President Barack Obama.

Well and good, for what ever it is worth. I wish them happiness in this endeavor.

But here's something to think about and it didn't land BIGTIME in the news.

Senator Richard Gordon authored and passed a bill allowing Filipino World War II Veterans to receive pension from the United States Government. This paved the way for legislation in the United States that would grant Filipino WW II vets not only pensions but recognition for their heroism and valor.

Barack Obama, then Senator, was among those who supported the US legislation -- which would not have been possible with Gordon's counterpart legislation in the Philippines.

The passage of the law was stalled until recently, news from the Los Angeles Times says that part of the $800 Billion Stimulus Package Law will include pensions for Filipino World War II Veterans.

Gordon went to the US several times in 2007 and 2008 to talk with US congressmen sponsoring the US bill last year and right now, there is a chance that the US bill giving veterans due recognition and pensions will finally push through.

Okay lang na walang photo-op with Obama, basta matulungan lang ang mga tumatanda nating mga WW II veterans na ilang panahon na lang ay baka pumanaw na rin. At least in their waning years, kinilala rin ang KABAYANIHAN nila.

My Uncle was a USAFFE and he already thanked Senator Gordon for helping with the passage of the US Veterans Law.

Here is the article from Los Angeles times:

Stimulus bill may include benefits for Filipino veterans.

The Senate's proposed version of the economic legislation includes one-time payments for World War II veterans from the Philippines, $15,000 for U.S. citizens and $9,000 for noncitizens.

By Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times
February 4, 2009

Reporting from Washington — After a decades-long struggle, Filipino veterans of World War II finally may be granted U.S. military benefits thanks to, of all things, the economic stimulus legislation.

A $198-million provision of the proposed Senate stimulus bill would authorize one-time payments of $15,000 to Filipino veterans who are U.S. citizens -- many of whom live in California -- and $9,000 for noncitizens, including those in the Philippines.

The provision is a small part of the overall $885-billion bill, but it has drawn criticism. North Carolina Sen. Richard M. Burr, top Republican on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, "finds it difficult to see how spending money in the Philippines will help stimulate the American economy," a spokesman said.

The veterans, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s, have fought hard for the benefits: In 1997 in Los Angeles' MacArthur Park -- named after Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- a group of protesters chained themselves to a statue of their former commander.

"We think this [stimulus bill] is the best chance for us to get this benefit approved," said Franco Arcebal of Los Angeles, a vice president of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans. "We're only about 15,000 left now. I'm 85, one of the youngest."

The payments were added to the legislation by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the appropriations committee and one of three remaining World War II veterans in the Senate.

"It's a matter of honor and the good name of the United States," Inouye said outside the Senate chamber Tuesday. He noted that in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised the benefits, but Congress reneged on the pledge in 1946.

As for whether the veterans' payments belonged in the stimulus package, Inouye said, "I'm looking for any vehicle that will carry this forward."

Congress last year approved appropriation of the Filipino veterans' benefits, but authorization is needed before the money can be paid.

There is no provision for the veterans in the House bill. If the item survives in the Senate, it will be the subject of negotiations to reconcile differences in the two chambers' bills.

The veterans' measure is among a spate of bills aimed at rewarding the sacrifices of World War II veterans -- who are dying at a rate of about 850 a day -- and healing wounds lingering from the war era.

Other bills include the Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act to provide payments to members of the merchant marine, sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista), and a measure sponsored by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to create a commission to investigate the government's actions in the World War II internment and deportation of Latin Americans of Japanese descent.

Among the critics of including benefits for the Filipino veterans in the stimulus package is Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, the top Republican on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"I do not question the valor and courage of the Philippine army, which fought alongside U.S. forces to defeat Japan in World War II, and I am not opposed to discussing ways to compensate these veterans. However, to do so and say it under the guise of stimulating the American economy is a complete falsehood and is the lowest form of partisan politics."

Arcebal called the payments a "small token to recognize our service."

Even if the benefits do not make it into the stimulus bill, this could be the year that the veterans achieve victory.

Several of their longtime champions are now in key positions in Congress: Filner and Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) chair the House and Senate veterans affairs committees, respectively, in addition to Inouye chairing the appropriations committee.

And President Obama, during the presidential campaign, expressed support for granting benefits to the Filipino veterans.

"If the Senate decides that this isn't the appropriate time or place, we're optimistic that we'll find the right vehicle in the future," said Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-San Jose), chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times

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