Staunchest supporter of PH war veterans in US dies

Posted at 12/18/2012 1:47 PM | Updated as of 12/18/2012 1:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is deeply mourning the passing of US Senator Daniel Inouye, a lawmaker considered as an invaluable champion of the country to the US Congress, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario said on Tuesday.

"Through his leadership roles as Senate President Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Inouye steadfastly advanced Philippine interests and was instrumental in increasing US military and development assistance to the Philippines, passing the bill that granted long-awaited benefits to Filipino World War II veterans, and advocating the passage of the Save Our Industries (SAVE) Act.,” del Rosario said in a press statement.

U.S. Senator for Hawaii Daniel Inouye speaks at a reception hosted by the U.S.-Japan Council and APEC Host Committee in Honolulu, Hawaii in this November 11, 2011, file photo.. REUTERS

Del Rosario personally recalled how Inouye mentored him when he served as Philippine Ambassador to the United States and "was learning to navigate the intricate workings of the US Congress."

"As we pay tribute to this consummate statesman, war hero and generous spirit, we express our deepest sympathies to his wife, Irene, his son, Kenny, the people of the Great State of Hawaii, and the American people on this monumental loss. We pray that they will find solace from all the good things Senator Inouye accomplished in his extraordinary lifetime," said del Rosario.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC also expressed its sadness over the passing of the 88-year-old lawmaker from Hawaii.

"Senator Inouye was more than just a friend of the Philippines,” said Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. in a statement released by the Philippine Embassy. “We grieve over his passing because the Filipino people have embraced him as one of their own.”

Inouye succumbed to respiratory complications at 5:01 p.m. EST on Monday (6:01 a.m. Tuesday in Manila). At the time of his death, Inouye was serving as Senate President Pro-Tempore and Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. As the most senior member of the Senate, he was third in line of presidential succession after Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.

Cuisia said Inouye has sponsored and supported several bills that strengthened Philippine-US relations during his almost five-decades in the US Senate.

A World War II veteran and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Senator Inouye was the staunchest supporter of Filipino veterans and was instrumental in the enactment of the Filipino Veterans Bill under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Senator Inouye believed that the US has shortchanged the Philippines with its unfulfilled promise to Filipinos who were drafted in 1941 to serve alongside US soldiers in World War II and he wanted to make up for that,” Cuisia said.

Senator Inouye was also the main sponsor of the Save Our Industries Act, a bill that will allow the export to the US of Philippine apparel made of American fabrics. This legislation aims to increase jobs and exports income for both countries.

Honorary Pinoy

He was also a strong advocate of strengthening Philippine military capabilities and enhancing Philippines-US defense relations by the provision of increased military financing for the Philippines. Mindanao development was also a priority of the late senator.

“Many people may not be aware of it but Senator Inouye was actually always proud to say that he was an honorary citizen of Bulacan and Pangasinan,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “Senator Inouye’s affinity with the Philippines is also evident in the fact that majority of his constituents in Hawaii come from Ilocos.”

Last year, Inouye visited the Philippines and was conferred by President Aquino the “Order of Sikatuna” for fostering, developing and strengthening relations between the Philippines and the United States. He was also previously awarded the Order of Lakandula and was presented with a Presidential Citation.