WASHINGTON – To celebrate the victory of Filipino World War II veterans in their long quest for recognition and benefits, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chair of the House Veterans Committee, tendered a reception on Feb. 26 in their honor.
In a statement released earlier following the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Filner said this law “recognizes the noble service of Filipino veterans” and “corrects this long-standing inequity.” He also lamented that although “300,000 Filipinos fought under the American flag during World War II, less than 18,000 are alive today to celebrate this vindication.”
“This compensation,” he said, “is to assist them in their later years and provide the dignity and honor that they earned as heroic veterans of the United States.”
He called upon his fellow Americans to join him in “remembering and honoring the Filipino veterans who fought for our freedom.”
Included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are the provisions that recognize the U.S. military service of Filipino WWII veterans and which grants them the benefits. The law provides a one-time payment of $15,000 to Filipino veterans who are American citizens and $9,000 to veterans who are Philippine citizens.
Close to a hundred leaders and members of the Filipino community, veterans groups, legislative staff, Philippine Embassy officials and U.S. Representatives attended.
In the same venue, the Filipino veterans, led by 92-year old Celestino Almeda, presented Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Rep. Bob Filner, a “Fighting Filipinos” poster. He thanked them for their support in the veterans’ struggle to achieve justice and for the key role that they played in the passage of the ARRA.
Besides Almeda, Amadeo Urbano, 85, Jesse Baltazar, 88, Celestino Rudy Panaglima, 78, Tomas Culanag, 85, and Alberto Bacani, 98, were also on hand to assist in the presentation of the poster.
Philippine Ambassador to the US Willy C. Gaa also took the opportunity to present certificates of appreciation to Representatives Bob Filner, Mike Honda (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Madeleine Bordallo (GU) in recognition of their support and active role in the Filipino WWII veterans’ cause.