CHICAGO (jGLi) – Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin are scheduled to hold a “continuing high-level consultation” in Washington, D.C. next month with United States Secretary of State Rodham Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Leon Panetta to “deepen their partnership” prior to a White House visit of President Noynoy Aquino this summer.
These Filipino government officials, while cognizant of the millions of dollars of grants extended to the Philippines by Uncle Sam, should not give up any leverage, if ever it has, that will sacrifice Philippine national patrimony and sovereignty.
Let’s face it, the Philippines needs a superpower, like the U.S., to hold at bay the rhetorics of its neighboring superpower China.
But in accepting what President Franklin D. Roosevelt calls a “fire hose” from a neighbor whose house is on fire, the Philippine officials should remind U.S. officials that there are a laundry list of long-standing issues that the U.S. should settle first before the Philippines can come to some agreements.
For instance, the U.S. government should not oppose claims in court of some Filipinos, who believe that they are U.S. Citizens when they were born in the Philippines from the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 up to 1946 when the Philippines was a U.S. Commonwealth, like those born in Puerto Rico and the natives of the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands, who won their case in court in 2004 when the U.S. Attorney General supported their claims.
If only the Filipino World War II veterans were considered U.S. citizens, not only based on their birth during the U.S. Commonwealth Era but also by swearing to the American flag when they were conscripted or forcibly mobilized under pain of death penalty for insubordination, they would not have been promised half, if not less than half, of the benefits for their war services.
And the amount they belated received under President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would not have been $15,000 lump sum because they became U.S. Citizens and $9,000 because they did not become U.S. Citizens but the same amounts. When these veterans served during the war, the main consideration for their services was they were able-bodied citizens. They were not asked of their citizenship status.
But what is hurting is that the mishandling of the military records and the big fire that razed the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri had caused the benefits of 24,000 claimants to be denied. Because their names were not listed in the NPRC, their claims were rejected by default by the U.S. Veterans Affairs.
PRESIDENT OBAMA SHOULD SIGN EXECUTIVE ORDER
To make up for these shameful acts of discrimination, Philippine officials should ask President Obama to sign an executive order, urging the U.S. Veterans Affairs to accept the claims even if their names are not in the NPRC. This executive order supports the pending H.R. 210 that has at least 87 co-sponsors in the U.S. House.
And President Obama should sign a letter of apology to the underpaid and discriminated Filipino veterans, just like the first President Bush, who signed a letter to each of the thousands of Japanese Americans interned during WW II after payment of the lump sum $20,000 to each intern for damages.
The Philippine officials should ask the U.S. government to support a pending bill filed by U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-SD) to return the two church bells brought to the U.S. by the military as trophies following the massacre in Balangiga, Samar in 1901.
There are Congressional records that show that during World War II, Philippine sugar tariffs were used to financially support the war and the Philippines was never refunded the multi-million dollar expenses by Uncle Sam.
When the U.S. withdrew their forces from Clark and Subic, it forgot to clean up the bases of “tremendous evidence of environmental hazards and toxic wastes” whose cost for “clean up and restoration” according to U.S. General Accounting office “approach Superfund proportions.”
There is a multi-million dollar class suit pending in Pampanga, Philippine regional trial court, asking the Philippine Congress to appropriate $102-Billion and for the Philippine government to pay 52-billion pesos (US$1.2-Billion) for neglect and refusal to deal with 80 deaths and illnesses of victims, who lived in the two U.S. military bases.
Among the victims of leukemia and cancer caused by toxic contamination of drinking water was six-year-old Crizel Jane Valencia, who died in 2000.
Maybe the U.S. should help the Philippine government pay up in installment.
SOCIAL AND MORAL DIMENSIONS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED
Sixteen non-government organizations (NGO’s) in the U.S. led by Chicago, Illinois-based Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide have written letters for support to U.S. Representatives and Senators, appealing for “justice and equity” on behalf of the many victims affected by toxic wastes left behind at Clark and Subic, according to Myrna Baldonado of Bayanihan Foundation.
The health issues, including the spread of sexually transmitted diseases around the U.S. bases, and adverse impact on the social and moral dimensions by the presence of the red-light districts near the U.S. bases, have yet to be addressed.
The controversial detention of U.S. G.I. Daniel Smith inside the U.S. Embassy, instead of the Philippine jails, was a singular reason for the amendment of the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement. The VFA should provide that if U.S. G.I’s run afoul with local civil and criminal laws, they should be charged in Philippine civilian courts and jailed in Philippine prisons after findings of probable cause.
The VFA should be treated as a treaty, reviewable by both the Philippines and U.S. Senates, and not be treated as an executive agreement.
And under the VFA, Filipino soldiers should be covered by life insurance that covers the U.S. G.I’s so that in case of injury or death during “friendly fires,” the Filipino soldiers are properly compensated.
At the height of the U.S. Bases in the Philippines, when a U.S. G.I. shot and killed a boy salvaging scraps from the garbage area of the U.S. base, the boy was suspected as a “pig.” Nobody knows if the boy’s relatives were ever compensated from the shooting.
And if another U.S. base will be established in the Philippines, the Philippines should first amend the Philippine Constitution that bans the presence of nuclear weapons in Philippine soil. If the Philippines cannot amend the Constitution, the Philippine government should hold a nationwide referendum during elections to find out the sentiments of the Filipino people if they still welcome the U.S. bases. (firstname.lastname@example.org)