comscore More needs to be done for Filipino-American veterans of WWII | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

More needs to be done for Filipino-American veterans of WWII

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

Hundreds of World War II Filipino-American veterans will be honored on Nov. 16 in a luncheon at the Filipino Community Center, hosted by the WWII Veterans Celebration Committee and the Filipino-American Society of Hawaii.

The event will remember the remarkable journey of these Filipino men and women alongside the American armed forces to help the U.S. win the war.

It will also mark the 20th anniversary of the Hawaii WWII Filipino-American Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary, which was established when Filipino veteran survivors arrived in 1992 following the passage of the 1990 Immigration Act.

The story of the Filipino-American veterans has been a continuing 70-year struggle for the benefits promised by the U.S., which recruited them for action in World War II.

Then-U.S. President Frank-lin Roosevelt promised American citizenship and full benefits after the war to the Filipino veterans, who were attached to the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East.

However, after the war, Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, which rescinded the promised citizenship and benefits, while approving those for veterans in England and other countries. Many Filipino veterans came all the way to Hawaii to press their case.

The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye came to their rescue. In 2002, he and 18 senators approved HR 3645, which reversed the Rescission Act and finally enabled the Filipino veterans to become U.S. citizens.

The surviving veterans living in the U.S. finally received a lump sum of $15,000 each and $9,000 each for those in the Philippines, as part of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2009.

But that was not the end of the story.

Several veteran-related bills originally introduced by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, such as the Filipino Veterans Reunification Act and the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals to the veterans, remain unheard. U.S. Senate versions have been introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono.

Another bill introduced in 2011 by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, was never given a hearing despite having 96 co-sponsors.

Meanwhile, the surviving veterans are fading fast. From a robust force of 200,000 during WWII, they now number only a few thousands, with many ailing or dying.

Former Hawaii state Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay relates the sad story of an aging veteran who came all the way from Manila to join a veterans rally in Washington, only to die a few days later.

"This lonely man passed on," recalled Abinsay, "without fulfilling his dream and that of his children in the Philippines."

The Family Reunification Act, which has been introduced repeatedly, is at the heart of the immigration reform issue now before Congress. The adult children petitioned by their veteran- fathers have been waiting for as long as 25 years because they are lumped with numerical quotas used by U.S. immigration to treat Philippine visa applications. The act aims to exempt them from the limited quotas in the interest of equity.

Commented one 89-year-old survivor in Hawaii recently about the continuing plight of his fellow veterans: "We remember the war. We fought very hard. When our comrades die, we feel very sad. … Time is running out."

This unfinished struggle of the veterans for justice and equity should end. Otherwise, it will continue to be an irritant in Philippine-American relations. Resolving these pending veterans’ issues in Congress could only end positively for both countries.

And celebrations, such as the one on Nov.16, will at least end happily, and not be a painful remembrance of things past.

Comments have been disabled for this story...

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up