CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi)– Before he died, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, told his fellow Democrat Sen. Richard “Dick” Durbin of Illinois to continue looking after the benefits of the Filipino World War II veterans.
This was disclosed Thursday (Jan. 10) at a community meeting held at the office of a non-profit, non-government Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE) in the north side of Chicago, Illinois by Illinois Senator Durbin, himself.
Durbin matter-of-factly quoted Sen. Inouye as telling him: “Help the Filipino WW II veterans and continue to help them and I told him I would.” The senior senator said Inouye was one of his best friends in the U.S. Senate.
“You just lost two best friends (in the U.S. Senate). Sen. Inouye, who just died, and Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who retired,” Durbin said. Inouye was replaced by Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz while Akaka was replaced by U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono, also a strong backer of the Filipino veterans, who beat former U.S. Representative Ed Case during last November’s elections.
The pledge of Durbin to help the Filipino veterans calls to mind the same pledge made by President Harry Truman, who, instead of vetoing, signed the Rescission Act of 1946, that deprived billions of dollars in benefits to the Filipino veterans. Mr. Truman said, “It is a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of Philippine Army veterans.”
The $200-million tucked in the Rescission Act went to the rebuilding of the infrastructure buildings of Manila, the most devastated city during World War II, next only to Warsaw, Poland, instead of going to the pockets of the war-ravaged and sickly Filipino veterans.
Senator Inouye, after seven decades of lobbying by Filipino veterans before the U.S. Congress, and as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, championed the $198-Million Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund and inserted it as rider in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 that was later signed by President Obama.
The benefits came in the form of a token $15,000 lump-sum grant to each Filipino veteran, who is U.S. Citizen, and $9,000 one-time payment to Filipino veteran, who is not a U.S. Citizen.
‘MY RECORD HAS BEEN DESTROYED!“
However, Durbin, the Assistant Majority Leader, the second highest-ranking position in the Senate, heard it directly from one of the Filipino veterans, who attended in what is believed as the first community meeting attended by an Illinois senator, Amado Bartolome. Bartolome said, “Until now I have yet to receive any of this FVEC Fund because my name could not be located in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri because my record has been destroyed.”
However, Bartolome told Durbin “I have a proof that my name and my unit can be found in the records of the U.S. Department of the Army.” The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which gives away the benefits, only honors the names found in the NPRC, not from the U.S. Department of the Army or any other source. Durbin pledged to help Bartolome.
There are estimated 24,000 Filipino veterans, like Bartolome, who could not receive their benefits because their names could not be found in the NPRC.
Senaator Durbin, who, as Majority Whip, ensures that the party votes as one on important issues in the Senate, was informed by his host, Commissioner Jerry B. Clarito, executive director of AFIRE, that there was a pending bill in the House of Representatives introduced by re-elected Rep. Jackie Speier (Dem.-Ca-12) that had generated 96 co-sponsors and died during the last Congress.
“This bill is something that we wanted to revive,” Clarito told Durbin, referring to the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act 2011 that would overturn the Rescission Act. It would grant full benefits to the Filipino veterans and authorize the U.S. VA. to pay the veterans if their names can be found in the U.S. Department of the Army or Philippine government sources.
When told by this reporter that the Obama Administration had recently declassified World War II military records, showing that the U.S. government owes 250,000 Filipino guerillas US$1-Billion, Durbin said, “This is the first time I heard about that.” He agreed to the suggestion of this reporter that the Obama Administration should make a decision on what to do with the declassified information.
Durbin also pledged to help with problem of Remy Cabagnot, widow of a Filipino veteran, who has been waiting for the Green cards of their children for the last 18 years.
It is very likely that the family reunification problems similar to Cabagnot would be incorporated in an omnibus Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that Durbin said he and five other senators, including Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), John McCain (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), are “writing right now and I hope we can get it done.”
Durbin clarified that contrary to common belief, the idea of the DREAM Act did not start from the Latino community. He said it started 12 years go when a Korean student came to his office. The student was assisted by his Chicago Director, Clarisol A. Duque. “Maybe this year, we will be able to get the DREAM Act passed, so we can help many young people. President Obama is helping us. He is my co-sponsor.”
He said President Obama just last June signed on to the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that allows children brought in the U.S. illegally and meet several key guidelines and may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization.
NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY
Durbin added also recently, President Obama approved the “final rule.” According to his staff, Cynthia Bajjalieh, this new immigration policy allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin. At present, when these individuals leave the U.S., there is a ten-year bar for their return. On or after March 4, 2013, the family separation will be reduced.
Napoleon C. Sienes, Jr., president of Zamboanga del Norte Association of Illinois (ZAMNAI), asked the help of Durbin to let undocumented immigrants, who are gainfully employed and are paying their taxes, buy health insurance premium by issuing them a certain identification number other than Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This is in the spirit of the recent concept of allowing undocumented immigrants in Illinois to be issued driver’s licenses under Senate Bill 957. Durbin referred him to some community health centers found in different states.
Liza Soriano, a volunteer, asked for reduction of dues to be paid by Green Card holders, who want to be U.S. Citizens.
Myrla Baldonado, who represents a caregivers’ group, asked and obtained the support of Durbin to co-sponsor S. Res. No. 453, expressing the sense of the Senate that supports seniors and individuals with disabilities. It seeks to expand and support strong home care workforce. It also seeks to make long-term services and supports affordable and accessible in communities that uphold the right of seniors and individuals with disabilities to a dignified quality of life.
Filipino World War II veteran, Col. Emilio O. Hildalgo (a.k.a. Emile H. Peters), 94, a U.S. Citizen, broke the house down when he suggested that “Mr. Senator, I want you to be the next (U.S.) president because you have now identified with our group.” Hidalgo was actually expressing his gratitude to Durbin for helping him obtain his $15,000 benefit claim. Colonel Hidalgo, however, is still following up his pending applications for his 65-year-old pension, Bataan Death Marcher prisoner-of-war Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Social Security benefits, which he hopes to see during his lifetime.
“There you are, you heard the presidential endorsement first here,” quipped Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim to Colonel Hidalgo’s remark. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SENATOR DURBIN LISTENING — Illinois U.S. Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin (fourth from right) listens from Filipino World War II veteran Amado Bartolome, who sought his help so he can receive his $15,000 lump sum benefit during Durbin’s community meeting last Thursday (Jan. 10) with Filipinos hosted by the Alliance for Filipino Immigrants Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE) headquarters at the north side of Chicago, Illinois. Senator Durbin pledged to help. Looking on from right are Remy Cabagnot, Filipino veteran’s widow, Angela “Tita Ging” Mascarenas, former executive director and current president of AFIRE, Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim, Commissioner Jerry B. Clarito, AFIRE executive director, Col. Emilio O. Hidalgo (a.k.a. Emile H. Peters) and Alex Cirera, publisher Chicago’s Community Builder. Among those standing are Kristina Tendilla (extreme left) and Durbin’s Chicago Director Clarisol A. Duque (extreme right). (FAXX/jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)
STONE-COLD SILENCE! — Illinois U.S. Sen. Richard “Dick” Durbin was intently listening when reporter Joseph G. Lariosa of FAXX/jGLi asked him if he knew that a recent military record declassified by the White House shows that the U.S. government owes the 250,000 Filipino guerillas $1-Billion. “This the first time I heard about it” was Durbin’s reaction. He agreed to the suggestion of this reporter that the White House should make a decision on what to do about the declassified information. The event took place during the Filipino community meeting with Durbin. Looking on from left are Napoleon C. Sienes, Jr., president of Zamboanga del Norte Association of Illinois, Alex Cirera, publisher of Chicago’s Community Builder and AFIRE Executive Director, Jerry B. Clarito. (Photo by Armand B. Frasco of KabanataMedia)