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Obama signs law honoring Filipino war vets

/ 05:38 AM December 17, 2016

WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama has signed into law the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, honoring Filipino war veterans for their dedicated service.

The new law awards the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions to America, to 260,000 Filipinos who fought for the United States as Philippine Scouts, members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and recognized guerrilla units during World War II.

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The US House of Representatives unanimously approved a counterpart bill on Nov. 30. The Senate version (Senate Bill No. 1555) was sponsored by the US Senators Mazie Hirono (Democrat, Hawaii), Dean Heller (Republican, Nevada), Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada), Tim Kaine (Democrat,Virginia) and Brian Schatz (Democrat, Hawaii).

The House version (HR 2737) was sponsored by the following US Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat, Hawaii), Joseph Heck (Republican, Nevada) Juan Vargas (Democrat, California), Mike Thompson (Democrat, California), Mark Takai (Democrat, Hawaii) and Jackie Speier (Democrat, California).

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Both bills were introduced on June 11, 2015.

Obama signed the bill into law on Wednesday.

“We welcome this terrific news and extend our appreciation anew to all the advocates and supporters of the bill at the US House of Representatives and the Senate,” Patrick Chuasoto, chargé d’affaires ad interim of the Philippine Embassy, said in a statement.

The Philippine consulates general and Filipino communities across the United States, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project campaigned for the passage of the bill.

Hirono and Gabbard introduced the bill in 2015, and worked together toward the measure’s final passage.

The law acknowledges the 260,000 Filipinos and Filipino-American soldiers who answered US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to duty and fought under the American flag against Japan during World War II.

“These loyal and courageous soldiers suffered, fought and gave up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, and have waited for their service to be recognized,” Gabbard said after the bill cleared the House on Dec. 1.

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Hirono said he joined one of the Filipino veterans, Domingo Los Baños from Kauai, aboard the USS Missouri on Veterans Day to recount how the veterans “were instrumental to our victory in the Pacific, but had to fight for decades to receive the benefits they earned.”

Only 15,000 of those soldiers are living. —WITH NIMFA U. RUEDA

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TAGS: Barack Obama, Congressional Gold Medal, Filipino Veterans, Filipino War Veterans, Obama, Patrick Chuasoto, President Obama, World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015
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