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Filipino WWII Veterans Win Senate Vote

Filipino Veterans of WWII who fought alongside American Forces against the Japanese may soon get their due in terms of benefits in a historic vote of 96 to 1 approval of S1315. A long hard fought battle 63 long years and counting to restore their honor, dignity and status as veterans is nearing victory.

The Senate has paved the way for all the veterans that include Filipino Veterans of WWII and the House of Congress is planning a similar bill that hopefully gets the same nod of the representatives.

While the prospect looks good it still faces an uncertain fate as the Bush administration expressed concern about the cost of expanding the benefits to Filipino veterans living in the Philippines.

The provision for Filipino Veterans creates about US$250 million in new benefits over 10 years with $84 million going to the 6,000 FilVets already in the US while $166 million would pay pension benefits for the 12,000 in the Philippines.

According to Associated Press published at LA Times, the Democrats pushing the legislation want to give 18,000 Filipino veterans of that war who live abroad a roughly $300-a-month pension. A big boost to the veterans whose numbers are dwindling who are in their 80’s and 90’s some of whom may not even be around for another 10 years.

$300 (P12,300 at P41 to $1) a month is not exactly winning a lotto but Philippine President Gloria Arroyo seems to think so and wanted her “balato” (share) by selling Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) to private developers.

While the FilVets and their supporters are lobbying hard in this long drawn legislative battle Gloria Arroyo’s greed only serves to validate the Republican Senators argument against giving Filipino WWII veterans their benefits. The Republicans pointed out that the U.S. has invested heavily in the Philippines and in case Gloria Arroyo seems to "forget" one of those was the Veterans Memorial Medical Center built by the U.S. government and donated to the Filipino veterans with a provision that it cannot be sold or alienated.

There is a long road ahead for the FilVets and their supporters and it will help if every Filipino American will do their share of lobbying but all these will be for naught if Gloria Arroyo is allowed to sabotage the gains of the lobbying effort. That is if we allow Gloria Arroyo in her illegal abuse of her executive powers in including VMMC in her development plans that will serve as an excuse to sell a property that belongs to the Filipino Veterans not the government to dispose off as they please. Leave it to the president with questionable mandate to spoil everything what could have been the most important legislative victory for the FilVets. Like a typical destructive and vindictive person afflicted with crab mentality will pull down the FilVets because they are $300 a month richer. Denying them hospital care at the twilight of their years is just plain cruel and as sick as it can get.

This is not a walk in the park so to speak, hopefully an honest to goodness serious anti-corruption measure is instituted by the administration of Gloria Arroyo. Unfortunately this is a wish that has a bigger chance of this cyber jaywalking pedestrian getting hit by lightning while jaywalking the smog polluted streets of Manila than seeing the TraPos (traditional politicians of the Philippine kind) pursue good governance. Not exactly a bright prospect in an administration that is defined by rampant scandalous corruption that has institutionalized corruption at the very top. Hopefully Congress and the Bush administration is not in any way influenced by these realities in the Philippines and then we also have this not so encouraging news, “Fraud costs military health program $100 million-plus” and another one titled “Judge orders Philippines company to pay $100M for fraud.” While the fraud is not in any way connected to the WWII Filipino Veterans the need to intensify the lobbying effort is needed to counter these discouraging developments.

Our gratitude and heartfelt appreciation goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senators Daniel Akaka, Daniel Inouye, Ted Stevens for their consistent championing of Filipino veterans equity without them we would not have reached this far and to the rest of the Senate members who voted in favor of the measure

Maybe it will help if we contact some members of the Philippine Senate like the Chairman of different committes such as Senators Rodolfo Biazon, National Defense & Security committee, Pia Cayetano, Health & Demography and Alan Peter Cayetano, Blue Ribbon in preventing the illegal and anomalous sale of property that belongs to the Filipino Veterans.

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