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Later today, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a resolution that will officially “recognize and honor the Filipino World War II veterans for their defense of democratic ideals and their important contribution to the outcome of World War II.”
But the resolution, if successful, won’t grant those veterans any of the benefits they have sought for decades, said Fredrick Hill, a spokesman for Rep Darrel Issa, R-Vista, who, along with Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, and Bob Filner, D-San Diego, co-authored the resolution.
As Marnette Federis noted in her related story last month, after Pearl Harbor “President Franklin Roosevelt drafted the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines to serve under the United States Armed Forces of the Far East. At the time, the Philippines was a recognized U.S. territory and those drafted were considered U.S. nationals. Thousands of Filipinos also joined guerrilla groups to combat Japanese occupiers, but all the various units worked with the U.S. Armed Forces.”
But in 1946, Congress stripped those Filipinos who served of their status as veterans and their subsequent rights to compensation, medical care, a pension and a military burial. While Filipino veterans groups have won back some of those rights in recent years, pensions and official recognition are still being withheld by the United States.
Although today’s resolution is little more than a symbolic gesture, Hill said it could aid the passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, which would restore some of those benefits for those who served, including their full status as World War II veterans. That legislation is currently stalled in the House Veterans’ Affairs committee, where it’s languished for years.
“Even if we pass this bill, Filipino veterans won’t get the benefits as American soldiers in the past have gotten,” Hill said. “Filipino World War II veterans, like all World War II veterans – if we want to honor them while they are living – there isn’t much time left.”