CHICAGO (jGLi) – Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin N. Lorenzana, Special Presidential Representative of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., pinned in Las Vegas, Nevada Liberation Medals on surviving Filipino World War II veterans, who were denied benefits because their names were not listed in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Those who were to receive the medals at the third annual Veterans Dinner ball at Gold Coast Hotel & Casino were Pvt. Romeo Barreras, 83, who was also a recipient of a Purple Heart as a USAFEE enlisted man and saw action in the Battle for Northern Luzon Guerilla Forces and Korean War; Brig. Gen. Cesar Poblete, 85, Chief of Staff PA-Cebu engaged at the Western Leyte Island Conflict-Guerilla Forces – USAFFE & Korean War; Pvt. Anastacio Sumajit, 87, Guerilla Forces, Battle for Luzon-Intelligence Unit-USAFFE; Capt. Edilberto U. Briones, Sr., 94, Guerilla Forces- USAFFE, Southern Leyte Island Conflict-Abuyog-MacArthur Landing; and 2nd Lt. Silverio Cuaresma, Sr., USAFFE-Guerilla Forces, saw action at the Battle of East Central Luzon, and, at 100, is the oldest WW II Filipino veteran.
The news of the medals being awarded comes after legislation was introduced in the Senate by Nevada Senator Dean Heller and in Congress by Congressman Dr. Joe Heck, who have been working to require the agencies involved to recognize documents from the Philippine government of those that are being denied.
NO REPS FROM PH EMBASSY OR VETS GROUP AT WHITE HOUSE COMMITTEE
The introduction of legislation by Nevada representatives Heller and Heck came before a recent announcement by President Obama and his Cabinet Secretary Christopher Lu of the formation of an Inter-governmental Committee in the White House that will study the problems related to claims recognizing Philippine government documents as proof of service that the National Personnel Records Center fails to accept as evidence of service for Filipino veterans, who fought alongside American veterans during the war.
Although the new group established is welcomed by the Filipino American veterans community, no one from the Philippine Embassy or citizen veterans groups are part of the review process about the decisions being made by the agencies appointed from the Administration that is denying Filipino American veterans their right to be called United States veterans. Ceasar Elpidio, President of the FAVFA-NV said. “We do not know why they have not included representatives from the community to sort out the best way to resolve the problem in accepting documents of our friendly nation of the Philippines.”
Various petitions and resolutions passed by leading Filipino -American organizations were presented to President Obama, asking him to sign an Executive order to remove regulations from Title 38, that restrict veterans from the Philippines of using their government’s history to prove service.
66 YEARS OF STALLING
It was felt by many in the Filipino- American community that forming another committee after sixty six years (66) and having the issue reviewed to date is just another way to stall the grant of recognitions and benefits “as our elderly veterans are dying waiting to be approved.” Elpidio added that “we are pleased and honored that an official from the Washington Philippine Embassy is here to honor our forgotten heroes who have helped keep America free.”
Last week, the FAVFA-NV Chapter in Las Vegas called upon President Barak Obama to place a moratorium on all claims pending for approval that may get dismissed while waiting for the White House committee to act, or until the new White House group finishes its work on resolving the regulations that have prevented the Filipino American veterans from being recognized during their ongoing appeals. President Obama signed the 2009 Filipino Equity Compensation Act, which allowed payments to veterans who were on outdated rosters and in aged military files from the war to determine service.
Out of forty two thousand (42,000) who filed claims that they served in the war, just over eighteen thousand (18,000) were recognized by the VA and now a little over twenty four thousand (24,000) go unrecognized. Ten Thousand live in the United States (10,000) and some fourteen thousand (14,000) live in the Philippines and the average age is between 84 to 100 years old. The Philippines was the only allied force of the United States which was restricted from certain rights given to others who served America during that time in history, when President Harry Truman signed the Recession Act in 1946, which cut thousands of Filipinos out of the right to be honored for their service.
Representatives of Senator Dean Heller and Congressman Dr. Joe Heck and other community leaders attended the event as part of the ceremony, which honored “these forgotten heroes” last Saturday, November 3. ([email protected])
SEN. HELLER WITH FILVETS GROUP: — Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (back row, third from left in red tie) is shown with some of the Filipino World War II veterans, family and friends in this file photo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo also shows Ceasar Elpidio (front row, extreme right), president of the Filipino American Veterans and Families of America, Nevada Chapter, and veterans advocate, Luke Perry (to Sen. Heller’s right). (jGLiPhoto courtesy of FAVFA-NV Chapter)