Filvets Still Long For Recognition


CHICAGO (jGLi) – Despite the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) last year, recognizing the services of Filipino veterans during World War II, many Filipino veterans still feel as odd men out in the celebration of Veterans Day in the U.S. Thursday (Nov. 11) this year.

When I suggested to the organizers of the launching of the book, “Unrecognized American Veterans” written by Arturo P. Garcia with Peter Cuasay, Ph. D. (Justice for Filipino American Veteran, 2009) in Chicago, Illinois that it should have been held on the Veterans Day and not on Oct. 30, the tail end of the Filipino American Heritage Month celebration, one of its organizers, Skokie, Illinois Commissioner Jerry Clarito of the Committee on Pilipino Issues gave me a quizzical look, as if telling me that the event is strictly dedicated to Filipino veteran issues.

I don’t blame Mr. Clarito, a son of a Filipino veteran himself, for not holding the event to coincide with the mainstream veteran community celebration.

After all when the Filipino veterans were campaigning for passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity bill, they hardly got whole-hearted support from their mainstream comrades of the American Veteran Legions, the largest American veterans group, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The book author, Mr. Garcia, a leader in the campaign for Filipino veteran issues, still feels that despite the grant of $15,000 lump sum pay for Filipino naturalized U.S. citizens and the $9,000 one-time pay for Filipino citizens, the ARRA still leaves much to be desired.




He wants surviving widows and widowers and their children be given this benefit even if the veterans died before passage of the ARRA. He also wants that the “quit claim” for other benefits be deleted from the law. He said there are no fraudulent applicants because it is too easy to detect the sundalong kanin (fake soldiers). From a high of 250,000 Filipino veterans recognized by the U.S. government, they are now down to less than 50,000 due to high death rate.

“This is why, we raised funds and come up with $3,500 to for the Attorney’s fees to file a mandamus and declaratory relief before the court against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Garcia said.

Mandamus is an order from the court, telling public officials to carry out a public duty. A declaratory relief is a judge determination of the parties’ rights under a contract or a statute.

I believe lawyers Arnedo S. Valera and Eleuterio C. Tomas can make ARRA as a handy tool to seek redress for the discrimination and injustice that the veterans suffered from the passage of the Rescission Act of 1946. It is the missing piece of the puzzle that had eluded them during the last 64 years.

Every time, the Filipino veterans would go to court to ask the U.S. government to pay them for their war services, the court would deny them because of statute of limitation, when their right to file a case had lapsed.

Before the Rescission Act was passed, there was a law called Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 that strictly prohibited “discrimination” against equal pay and allowances for enlisted men in the United States Armed Forces based on color or creed, except rank.

When the Rescission Act was passed in 1946, the U.S. Congress let it take effect retroactively, instead of prospectively, to deny Filipino veterans benefits enjoyed by other American veterans in violation of the U.S. Constitution against ex post facto law.

Under the Rescission Act, only the Filipino veterans would receive war service pay half the amount whatever an American or 66 other nationalities under the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East would get.




They were also denied benefits under the G.I. bill that would have allowed the veterans or their children to go to school.

In a lawsuit filed by Justina C. Hernandez before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. provided to me by Fr. Prisco Entines, another son of a Filipino veteran, Mrs. Hernandez claimed that her husband, Lazaro Hernandez, a corporal under the U.S. Armed Forces during WW II, was merely paid Eleven Dollars or Twenty Two Pesos (P22), instead of Fifty Four Dollars ($54.00) or One Hundred Eight Pesos (108 pesos) a month during the war.

He was supposed to be paid at Two Pesos for every U.S. Dollar, which was the exchange rate at that time. But he ended up receiving only one-fourth of the authorized pay and not even one-half.

If we compute the $3,096 that was docked from his paycheck from 1941 to 1946, and convert it to today’s currency, it is equivalent to $47,416.89. If you compound the annual interest at .03 percent of the principal, it should now be more than $50,000. This is way above the lump sum $15,000 given to U.S. citizens and $9,000 to non-U.S. citizens.




Because this $50,000 was taken away or extorted from each Filipino veteran by the U.S. government, if we go by the Bible, this amount should have been $200,000 by now. According to Zaccheus (Luke 19:8), the tax collector,  "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."

If the U.S. government cannot afford to give a $200,000 lump sum to each Filipino veteran, I told Filipino Vietnam veteran Romeo Sirate, then, the US should pay them in installment like pension payment.

If the veterans die before they receive the whole $200,000, then the remaining balance should be given to the surviving widows or widowers or their surviving children.

This $200,000 should both be given to Filipino veterans, whether they are American citizens or not, because this rate was computation during wartime. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)