By Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau | 11/13/2012 8:33 AM
WASHINGTON D.C. Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. paid tribute to generations of Filipino and American veterans spanning decades, from World War II to Afghanistan and the war on terror.
“Today, we remember the heroism of countless Filipinos and Americans who answered the call to serve and fought side by side to defend the freedoms we now enjoy,” Cuisia said in a statement commemorating Veterans Day in the United States.
But at the same time, aging Filipino veterans reminded the US government of unfulfilled promises to help them after suffering through the injustice of the 1946 Rescission Act that stripped them of benefits given to other World War II veterans.
“We will not be where we are today if not for these brave men and women from our uniformed services,” Cuisia said in saluting not only Filipino and American veterans of the Second World War but also those who have served in other military actions the Philippines was also involved in such as Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
Cuisia also paid tribute to Filipino-Americans serving in the US military, especially those currently serving in Afghanistan, as well as members of the US Special Forces who have served in Mindanao as part of the international war against terror.
The US has about 300 Special Forces deployed in some of the most strife-prone areas of the country like Sulu and Basilan, where they help operate unmanned drones and train Filipino troops.
Cuisia expressed the hope that with the campaign over, President Obama can now take a second harder look at the plight of about 24,000 Filipino veterans who were left out of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) bill which he signed in 2009.
“We gladly welcome the recent announcement of your Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, launching the Interagency Working Group comprised of representatives from the OMB, Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and the National Archives to review the policies, the approval and denial process of applications from Filipino WWII veterans for this compensation benefit,” officer of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV) wrote in a letter to President Obama.
Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy, said the disqualification issue stemmed from the guidelines being implemented by the National Personnel Records Center, which certifies the services of Filipino veterans.
Accordingly the guidelines require that the names of veteran-claimants appear in both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List prepared by the US Army at the end of the Second World War.
“Unfortunately, the claims of a large number of Filipino veterans were not processed because their names appear only in one list or the other but not both,” Lorenzana said.
“What we are requesting the US government is for them to consider all available sources of records and not just the two lists,” he added.
The ACFV pointed out that the April 15, 2002 US Army policy (NPRC Memo 1865.125) considers the US Commonwealth Philippine Army soldiers' and guerrillas’ records in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis MO “are not official."
This policy contravenes the letter of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act, ACFV president Patrick Ganio Sr. pointed out.
“May we also request your Interagency Working Group hold as early as possible a public hearing to receive testimonies and recommendations from veterans’ advocates, military historians and key stakeholders to solve our issue,” the veterans’ letter stated.
The disqualified veterans comprise 56 percent of the 43,083 surviving veterans who filed their claims under the compensation fund, which grants a one-time lump sum of $15,000 for veterans who have become US citizens and $9,000 for those who retained their Philippine citizenship.
Lorenzana said the US government has so far released a total of $223.7 million to 18,698 Filipino veterans from the $265-million FVEC fund.