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Filipino war veterans deprived of $3.2B in US benefits

First Posted 21:28:00 04/28/2008

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MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino World War II veterans would have received $3.2 billion worth of benefits from the United States had it not been for the Rescission Act of 1946, which effectively dashed promises held out as they fought alongside American troops six decades ago.

?According to the Office of US Veterans Affairs in Washington, the US government saved $3.2 billion by passing the Rescission Act in 1946,? Defense Undersecretary for Veterans Affairs Ernesto Carolina told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.

Carolina said that after the war, more than 400,000 Filipino veterans were applying for benefits from the US government.

Of the figure, more than 240,000 were recognized as legitimate war veterans in the ?Missouri List? which was prepared by the administrative unit of the US Armed Forces based in Missouri.

There are now only 18,155 surviving Filipino war veterans, some 6,000 of them living in the United States, according to the Missouri list. Their average age, according to Carolina, is 80 years old and above.

Carolina said that for the Filipino veterans, the fight for an equity bill in the United States was, more than anything, for the restoration of their dignity and due recognition for their role in America?s war against Japan.

?Going along with that recognition is getting what they deserve,? Carolina said.

Being a US colony during the war, the Filipino soldiers fought as members of the US Armed Forces in the Far East and were promised to be treated like American soldiers by then US President Theodore Roosevelt.

This included being given the same benefits and privileges extended to their American counterparts.

The battles fought by the estimated 70,000 Filipino soldiers and guerrillas, along with some 10,000 American troops in Bataan and Corregidor delayed the advance of the Japanese troops in the Pacific by five months.

Even with the fall of these two battlefields, the valor shown by the Filipino and American troops by fighting to the end gave the United States the time to eventually turn the tide against the Japanese forces.

But in 1946, after the war, the United States passed the Rescission Act, effectively removing the entitlement of the Filipino veterans, Carolina said.

The United States offered $200 million as sort of quit claim, Carolina said, but this was rejected by the Philippines.

A research on the proceedings that led to the Rescission Act showed that ?the only reason for this was because right after the war, the US government was trying to save funds,? Carolina said.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 was finally passed in the US Senate on April 24 by a vote of 96-1. An estimated 12,000 Filipino veterans living in the Philippines stand to receive a monthly $300 pension when this bill is signed into law, Carolina said.

He expressed hope that the amount would eventually be increased.

The benefits the Filipino war veterans would receive from the US government would be on top of those they get from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, said Carolina, the PVAO?s administrator.

Carolina was with the Philippines executive-legislative veterans delegation, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dispatched to Washington to press for the passage of the bill.

The delegation included 81-year-old Representative Antonio Magsaysay-Diaz, himself a World War II veteran. The presence of Diaz was the ?clincher? for Carolina.

Diaz recalled hearing on Voice of America, the US radio network based in Washington, ?almost everyday? the promise made by Roosevelt during the war, said Carolina.

Everyone in the delegation appeared thrilled when its mission was accomplished, even if the payment would come more than six decades later after World War II.

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