Filvet Issue Divides FilAm Voters In Nevada

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (jGLi) – Filipino American voters in Nevada are having a hard time choosing their senatorial candidate in the Nevada Nov. 6, 2012 general elections.

Both candidates – incumbent Republican Sen. Dean A. Heller and challenger and incumbent first district Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley – are wooing the community’s votes, invoking their prior and present support for the cause of Filipino veterans.

Jim Castillo, a retired Filipino American veteran of Las Vegas, forwarded to me an email from his friend, Leo Fortuno, also a retired Filipino American U.S. Navy officer also residing in Las Vegas, supporting the candidacy of six-term Representative Berkley as Nevada senator for being “one of the strongest voices for veterans of all races and backgrounds on Capitol Hill as a proud daughter of a World War II veteran. Shelley knows just how important it is for those that serve this great country of ours on the battlefield to be taken care of when they return home to their loved ones.”

Representative Berkley is trying to succeed John Ensign, who resigned amidst an ethics scandal. She secured the Democratic nomination in the June primary and will be facing Senator Dean A. Heller, who was appointed to replace Senator Ensign.

Fortuno said, “Shelley began her fight for Filipino vets by co-sponsoring the Filipino Equity Act in 2004 (sic).  This bill would cut through the red tape and resistance facing so many Filipino veterans who fought on the side of the United States in World War II and make it easier for them to finally claim the benefits that they earned as they fought the Japanese alongside the Greatest Generation on the bloody battlefields of the Pacific Theater.


“For more than sixty long years, recognizing and providing compensation for the Filipino veterans of World War II had been a slow march toward justice.  It was not until President Obama took office in 2009 that any progress at all was made on the issue.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was signed into law that year contained the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision, which allowed aging Filipino veterans to finally begin to collect the benefits they earned and deserved so many years ago.”

Another email from a Filipino American Republican leader in Nevada forwarded to me a letter signed by Ceasar I. Elpidio, another Filipino American veterans group leader, endorsing incumbent Senator Heller’s candidacy for helping the state’s Filipino veterans get their recognitions after their applications for benefits were denied because their names were not found in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Elpidio, a retired U.S. Naval Reserve officer, hailed Heller for “introducing legislation that provides Filipino veterans with a forum that challenges the current process and exclusion from the reconstructed Missouri Lists, which many are not on and have other historical evidence they served.”

The Senate bill (S. 3530) that Senator Heller introduced might help the 24,000 Filipino veterans, who were turned away by the ARRA that was supported by Rep. Berkley, because their names could not be located at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

S. 3530 requires the “Secretary of Defense to establish a process to determine whether individuals claiming certain service in the Philippines during World War II are eligible for certain benefits despite not being on the Missouri List, and for other purposes.”

In other words, the Filipino American voters are being asked whom to support between Rep. Berkley, who supported the ARRA that gave the $15,000 lump sum benefit to Filipino veterans, who are U.S. citizens and one-time $9,000 benefit to Filipino veterans, who are not U.S. citizens, or Senator Heller, who is leading the crusade to recognize the 24,000 Filipino veterans, who were denied of their claims.


This is the decision the Nevada Filipino Americans has to weigh when they go to the polls.

According to a statement by the National Federations of Filipino American Associations headed by national chair Ed Navarra, based on the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 2,555,923 Filipinos in the United States. Nevada is home to 98,351 of them.

When U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid edged his Republic challenger, Nevada Assemblywoman Sharon Angle, with 41,424 votes during 2010 Senate race, the 98,351 Filipino Americans in Nevada become an irresistible voting block to court.

Filipino American Fely A. Quitevis, a recent guest to the 2012 Republic National Convention in Tampa, Florida and past chairman of Nye County, Nevada Republican Central Committee and Founding Chairman of the Asian-American Republicans of Nevada, would have a role cut out for her as she revs up in overdrive to convince her kababayans (Filipino compatriots) to vote for Heller.

Meanwhile, an email sent to me by a Filipino veteran supporter out of Los Angeles, California says another Las Vegas candidate, Rep. Joe Heck, who is running for re-election in Nevada’s third district, appears to have no competition for the votes of the Nevada Filipino Americans in his district.

Fr. Prisco Entines forwarded to me a copy of H.R. 6464 Congressman Joe Heck introduced last Friday in the U.S. House of Representatives, directing “the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to accept certain documents as proof of service in determining the eligibility of an individual to receive amounts from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.”

Rep. Heck presented the legislation last Monday to the “Mighty Five (Filvets) and their families at the nursing home facility of Silverio Cuaresma, a 100-year-old Filipino American veteran.

Apparently, Congressman Heck’s House bill complements the Senate bill filed by Senator Heller.

May the best men or women win in the Silver State! (

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