Filipino veterans’ compensation a “small token,” says Sen. Inouye

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (Apr. 5) – Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (Dem.) concedes that the payment he sponsored for the grant of Filipino World War II veterans “represents a small token to the remaining 18,000 Filipino World War II veterans, and expresses our appreciation for the sacrifices and contributions these veterans made in defense of our nation.”

In a message addressed to Skokie, Illinois Commissioner Jerry Clarito, executive director of the Illinois Veterans Equity Center, Sen. Inouye, short of apologizing, said the $198-M “will not compensate the many thousands who volunteered and who were killed in the fight against Japan.
“Although, it took close to 20 years, in my view, this payment represents a small token to the remaining 18,000 Filipino World War II veterans, and expresses our appreciation for the sacrifices and contributions these veterans made in defense of our nation.”

The message by the World War II hero was also publicly read by Clarito, who invited him to grace the “Day of Giving Thanks (Araw ng Pasasalamat)” celebration by the Filipino American war veterans in Chicago area held last March 28 at the Rizal Center at the north side of Chicago, Illinois.

The Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund was inserted in The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5) that authorizes a one-time $15,000 payment for veterans, who are U.S. Citizens, and $9,000 lump sum payment of $9,000 veterans, who are not U.S. Citizens. Sen. Inouye is the U.S. Senate appropriation committee chairman.

“They have served with honor, and they deserve nothing less than honor from the government of the United States,” according to the senior senator, who was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.

On hand at the celebration was Congresswoman Janice “Jan” Schakowsky (Dem.-9th IL), who said,  “This celebration has been more than 60 years in the making – and I am honored to join you in recognizing the brave veterans whose contributions and sacrifices for America have gone unrecognized for far too long.

Rep. Schakowsky said, “I know this was a long fight, a very long, frustrating fight. But it is finally over.  Since my first year in Congress (in 1999), I have been with you in this effort and I will continue to be an advocate for you.

“But while I have worked to pass legislation to correct this historical injustice for many years, I know many of you have worked on this for many decades.
“And while I share your excitement to have finally succeeded, I know we also share sadness about the many brave men who did not live to see this victory.  Of the nearly 300,000 Filipinos who fought for the United States over 60 years ago, less than 18,000 will see these benefits and recognition.
“In closing, I would like to ask all of you here to join me in a moment of silence to remember all those who can’t be with us.”

The luncheon program co-emceed by Clarito and Carmen Estacio was welcomed with remarks by Rene Abella, president of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago; and led with an invocation by Rev. Telesforo Yague, a member of American Legion, Fil-Am Post 509.

Also delivering messages of thanksgiving and victory were Philippine Consul General Blesila C. Cabrera, Illinois State Secretary Jesse White, Florencio Villegas, candidate for Bloomingdale Township Trustee, and Commander E. Rodriguez of the 6th District Council, American Legion.

Delivering the “Voice from Advocacy” was lawyer Ben Lumicao; for Voice from the Media, Alpha Nicolasin of The Filipino American Community Builder and program TV host of Hataw Pinoy Chicago (WOCH-KBC Channel 41), Voice of Coalition, Tuyet Lee of the Asian American Institute, and the thanksgiving from the veterans by Bataan veteran and survivor, Arcadio V. Calabas, Commander, American Legion, FilAm Post 509, and president of Illinois Veterans Equity Center. Aida Ramirez led in singing of both the Philippines and U.S. national anthems.

Calabas said in an interview, “For those veterans, who have not yet filed their claims towards for $15,000, they should go to the Veterans Affairs office in Chicago, where they can get the application papers and ask questions about the claim.

“Our recognition has now been approved after 63 years of seeking and we thank legislators, particularly Senator Inouye, for making the recognition happen.”

Clarito said, “eligible Filipino veterans should apply before Feb. 16, 2010 so that widows can get the benefits even if the claimants die. But they should hurry because waiting time could be a problem.”

Even if they file their applications in the U.S., their applications will still be sent to the U.S. Embassy in Manila for processing.

This was confirmed by Sgt. Jose V. Juachon, a Bataan survivor, who was the first U.S. citizen Filipino veteran to file his claim at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, when he happened to be there as President Barack Obama signed The Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 last Feb. 17. He was honored by the Knights of Rizal at the Manila Hotel.

The thanksgiving ceremonies come close to the 67th Commemoration of Bataan Day 2009 (Araw ng Kagitingan) on Monday, April 6, in Chicago, where veterans will lay wreath at 9 a.m. at the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge at the corner of State St. and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago.

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