Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Fiona Ma's bill would raise awareness of Filipino World War II veterans in school lessons

A bill seeks to raise awareness in California public schools of the contributions of Filipinos who fought under the American flag during World War II.

Co-authored by state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, the bill calls on middle and high schools to incorporate in their social science lessons discussions pertaining to the role of about 250,000 Filipinos in the war.

Introduced in the Legislature in late January, AB 199 would not mandate such instruction.

But it would encourage schools to devote some time studying the service of the Filipino veterans, Ma spokeswoman Gina Frisby said.

That part of the history lesson should include personal testimony in the form of oral or video histories of the Filipino soldiers, Ma's office said.

Not making AB 199 mandatory should give the measure a better chance of passing muster than similar bills introduced in the past few years, Frisby said.

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to sign those bills into law.

In a veto message in 2008, Schwarzenegger said: "While I respect the author's intent to recognize the role of Filipinos who fought courageously in World War II, I have consistently vetoed legislation that has attempted to include specific details or events into areas of instruction.

The state Board of Education adopted content standards (that) are developed by a diverse group of experts and are intentionally broad in order to allow coverage of various events, developments and issues."

Ago Pedalizo, president of Justice for Filipino- American Veterans, said he hopes the latest bill finds success.

Students should learn about the Filipino veterans and the long-running effort to bring them full military benefits, Pedalizo said.

"If you want healing for the whole community," he said, "everyone should know the whole history."

Ma's bill follows legislation by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier that seeks to grant full benefits to surviving Filipino veterans.

Speier, D-Hillsborough, introduced her Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 in Congress in early January, trying to accomplish what has eluded supporters of similar bills that were proposed but fizzled over the years.

Speier's bill would restore the benefits promised to the Filipinos at the time of the war but denied by the Rescission Act of 1946.