Pimentel Asks PGMA to Include Plight of Filipino War Casualties in Talk With Obama

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (July 27)– Opposition Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. asked President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Monday (July 27) to seek the influence of President Barack Obama in pressing the American companies to pay up the insurance coverages of the 11 Filipino civilian workers, who died or were injured in both Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

At the same time, the Minority Floor Leader also asked Mrs. Arroyo to get from Mr. Obama “a reasonable yearly quota of the expected 1,000,000 nurses that the US would reportedly need by 2021.”

Pimentel said that if Mrs. Arroyo can get “a quota of 20,000 nurses a year, that would be a great economic bonanza for our nurses and their families.”

The unsolicited advice was contained in a letter Mr. Pimentel transmitted to Malacanang and furnished to this reporter by Bobby M. Reyes, a Los Angeles, California activist and owner of website, MabuhayRadio.com.

Senator Pimentel was a visitor in Los Angeles last week and Mr. Reyes was able to phone-patch this reporter with the Mindanao senator for a brief interview.

Pimentel also suggested to Mrs. Arroyo that if the United States wants to “help solve the Moro secessionist problem in Muslim Mindanao,” it should do so, by not “going to war there but by providing educational, economic and humanitarian assistance to the Moro peoples.”

In an interview with Pimentel last week with this reporter, Pimentel also urged Mrs. Arroyo to fill up vacant positions for judges in 18 municipalities in Sulu. He said four regional trial courts in these areas are holding court in Zamboanga. He said economic cost of medicine should also be lowered.

Pimentel said he was in Los Angeles to encourage overseas Filipinos to register and vote in the 2010 elections.

Reyes also suggested that Mrs. Arroyo include in “talking points” with President Obama the revival of the inclusion of “certain aliens born in the Philippines or Japan, who were fathered by United States citizens as beneficiaries of Public Law 97-359, the Amerasian Immigration Act.”

He said the 10 Filipino civilian workers, who have died or were injured in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash last July 19 are being short-changed by their U.S.-based employer, AIM Group, Inc.

These workers were identified as Celso Q. Caralde, Ely I. Carino, Ernesto C. De Vega, Manolito C. Hornilla, Leopoldo G. Jimenez, Jr., Mark Joseph C. Mariano, Marvin P. Najera, Rene D. Taboclaon, Ricardo E. Vallejos and Noli M. Vista.

“I understand that they were all covered by insurance and that the U.S. government has paid more than $1.5-billion in premiums for the war-zone insurance coverage for the said civilian employees. Individually, the employees were entitled to $300,000.”  Pimentel said.

“To the best of my information, the wounded workers and/or the heirs of those killed have applied for the benefits but the insurance companies like the American Insurance Group (AIG) have either rejected the applications or have offered token sums.”

Pimentel added, “In an earlier incident that might be instructive, a Filipino worker, Rey Torres, was killed in Iraq. An American newspaperman, T. Christian Miller wrote in an article published in the Los Angeles Times on July 19, 2009 that the AIG had offered only $22,000 to the surviving heirs of Torres. Mr. Torres, a native of Pampanga, was supposed to receive insurance benefits amounting to at least $300,000. His heirs are contesting the offer through a lawyer but that will cost them a fortune and of course litigation time.

“Incidentally, as you know, the AIG is the parent company of the Phil-Am Life Insurance Corporation. Phil-Am Life, I am told, is the only wholly owned subsidiary of AIG that did not suffer problems from the recent economic meltdown that hit many a major corporation in the US and in Europe. It might also be pertinent to mention this matter to the US President.”

The AIG is also the insurance giant, which U.S. taxpayers bailed out four times to the tune of $170-billion, that President Obama criticized for promising millions in bonuses to executives in the same division that brought AIG to the brink of oblivion.

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