Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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LA City Council passes resolution in favor of Pinoy WWII vets

The Los Angeles City Council, through the sponsorship of Councilmember Richard Alarcon, passed two resolutions supporting Assembly Bill (AB) 199: The Filipinos in World War (WW) II Social Studies Curriculum Act; and, Assembly Resolution (AJR) 6: The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011.

The resolutions aim to recognize the role of Filipinos during WWII in history text books in the US and reinstatement of benefits for Filipino Veterans of World War II.

AB199 is the first step towards ensuring that social science instruction in grades 7-12 to include the significant role of Filipinos in WWII.

AJR6 is a support resolution that encourages Congress and the President of the United States to enact House Resolution 210, “Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011”, authored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

Among the many members of the Filipino American community present in the LA City Council Meeting last Sept 6 are widows of WWII Veterans who died before the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Law gave a lump sum of $15,000 to living veterans in 2009. “Our husbands fought as hard as the other veterans and so they deserve to get some benefits as well. They have fought for this for so long. Since the lump sum was given after their death, we, their widows and children, deserve to receive as well,” said Rosita Sanchez. Her sentiment was echoed by other widows - Bonifacia Espiritu, Maria Agbuna, and Jovy Alejandrino, the Vice-president of Seniors for Pilipino American Community Empowerment (SPACE).

During World War II, the Philippines was a commonwealth of the United States. Filipino soldiers in the US Armed Forces were in effect US nationals, and the US government promised them the same health and pension benefits as US soldiers. These Filipino solders fought for the US in the Pacific theatre, joining General Douglas MacArthur in defending against invading Japanese forces. Tens of thousands of Filipino soldiers sacrificed their lives.

However, after World War II ended, President Truman signed Public Law 70-301, known as the Rescission Act of 1946. The Rescission Act states that the service of Filipinos “shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits.” These veterans were forgotten by the US government, and largely, are forgotten in the pages of history books. They were also stripped of all the benefits that should have been due them and their families.

With every passing year, we have fewer remaining Filipino World War II veterans who deserve to have their courageous feats on record along with the American soldiers they served with side by side.

While only Congress can rectify the issue of veterans’ benefits, the California Legislature can help ensure that our children and future generations learn of the contributions and sacrifices made by these brave Filipino soldiers.

To help remedy the situation, AB 199 expresses the encouragement of the Legislature that instruction in social sciences includes the role of Filipinos in World War II.

Specifically, it encourages the instruction to include a component drawn from personal testimony, especially in the form of oral or video histories of Filipinos who were involved in World War II and those men and women who contributed to the war effort on the home front.

AB 199 does not mandate instruction; it simply helps ensure that our children and future generations learn of the contributions and sacrifice of these brave Filipino soldiers before we lose them in history.

The other resolution, AJR 6, urges Congress and the President of the United States to pass the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 (H.R. 210).

H.R. 210 is an attempt to make up for the terrible injustice that resulted after the Rescission Act of 1946 stripped the benefits of the Filipino veterans who fought united with our soldiers, unwaveringly, to defend the United States. It would restore benefits to those who have been ignored and their families by reinstating the average monthly pension of $1,500, and providing medical care, burial services and all other benefits that are right now only available to American citizens.

Furthermore, the bill would allow for widows of those who are no longer with us to receive, for the first time, the benefits that their husbands bravely earned.

The Rescission Act of 1946 deemed some Filipino veterans citizens, and entitled them to all benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, the Recognized Guerilla Forces, and the New Philippine Scouts were all denied the same benefits, even though they fought side by side.

To support Asssemblyperson Fiona Ma’s effort, City Council member Richard Alarcon introduced the resolution.

It was seconded by Councilmen Tom Lebonge, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar,Ed Reyes and Bill Rosendhal, a Vietnam War veteran. All of them spoke to support the resolution to the delight of the crowd, a significant number composed of members of the Filipino American community.

Philippine Consul General of Los Angeles Mary Aragon, LA City Attorney Ed Angeles, Genevieve Jopanda, District Representative with Fiona Ma ’s office, took the floor to speak in favor of the resolution.

Filipino World War II veterans John Aspiras of JFAV, Jack Vergara of SGS, Jovy Alejandrino, Vice President of SPACE, Dr. Jay Valencia of NUHW, Arturo P. Garcia, JFAV National Coordinator and youth leaders Ivy Dulay and Maurus Dumalaog of SIPA, spoke in behalf of the Filipino American community of Los Angeles.

They all thanked the City Council for their gracious and wholehearted support for Filipino Veterans and widows for the 15 years of their struggle for justice and equity.

For the Filipino-American community of Historic Filipinotown, the passing of the two resolutions serves to honor the living heroes of the Philippines and the Filipino-American community in the United States -- most especially the remaining men and women who fought and experienced WWII in the Philippines. There are less than 40,000 living veterans and widows both in the US and the Philippines. Historic Filipinotown and San Francisco have the highest concentration of Filipino World War II veterans to the present.