THE FILIPINO CHANNEL’s daily newscast “Balitang America” has been covering the plight of our Filipino World War II veterans since the program started airing 15 years ago. In all those 15 years, we have seen how demoralized and frustrated these Filipino veterans had been for hoping, year after year, that their sacrifices would finally be recognized by the U.S. government. Yet, year after year, they were crushed by the fact that Congress had seemed to ignore what these heroes had been fighting for.
Finally, last Wednesday, October 25, during the celebration of Filipino-American History Month, our kababayans who offered the biggest sacrifice fighting for the U.S. military during World War II, had been honored with the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal.
It was a proud and emotional moment for these Filipino veterans, whom we fondly call “Manongs” when finally, they were commended by House Speaker Paul Ryan for “answering President Roosevelt’s call to duty, despite having no formal training, risking their lives to fight for the United States.”
As “Balitang America” reported, after the Congressional Gold Medal was presented at the Capitol, more than 500 of these Filipino heroes or their families received their own gold medals at a gala held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Maryland.
These Fil-Vets, their families, and the advocates fighting with and for them were tearful during the ceremony. For some Filipino veterans’ families, this recognition came too little, too late, as most of those who fought during the war for the U.S. had already died before this day of recognition.
As “Balitang America” Correspondent Rommel Conclara reported, about 250,000 Filipinos fought under the American flag, and were promised all the benefits accorded to those who served in the US Armed Forces. However, in 1946, U.S. Congress stripped many of the Filipinos of the benefits promised by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt.
The report further said that of the 66 countries allied with the U.S. during World War II, only Filipinos were denied benefits they rightfully deserved.
Veterans Equity Center (VEC) Board of Director Member and Balitang America Legal Counsel Atty. Lou Tancinco said, “This is actually an issue of injustice. And it might be costly to the government to give them what is due but we should not stop fighting.”
Veterans advocates like Ago Pedalizo, coordinator of the Justice for Filipino American Veterans, say their next campaign is to launch a legislative initiative to have Congress reverse the 1946 Recision Act that stripped the Manongs of their full veterans rights and benefits.
It’s still a long way to go but we can help our Fil vets. Call your representatives in Congress and advocate on behalf of our Filipino World War II veterans.
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos