by Dr. Arcelita Imasa
Whatever happened to the thousands of brave Filipinos who answered the call to fight with the U.S. military in World War II when the Philippines was an American commonwealth? Did they ever get paid or get an opportunity for citizenship?
As citizens of an American commonwealth, Filipino soldiers were legally American nationals, and President Roosevelt promised them the same veterans’ benefits given to members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Filipino forces fought bravely as Japanese forces occupied the country and U.S. troops escaped the Philippines to Australia.
But Roosevelt’s promise was not kept. In 1946, the U.S. Congress passed the Rescission Act, which retroactively annulled the benefits promised to veterans and their widows and children because of concerns over its projected price tag of upwards of $3 billion.
“The priority after World War II was in Europe, and the government made a determination they would instead pay $200 million to the Filipino government, which would disperse the money,” says Antonio Taguba, a retired U.S. Army major general and chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, which is working for due recognition and benefits to Filipino World War II veterans and their widows.
For more than seven decades later, Filipino veterans were still waiting for the U.S. government to fulfill that obligation. While members of the “Old” Philippine Scouts were eligible to receive full benefits, that has not been the case with members of the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, Recognized Guerrilla Forces, and New Philippine Scouts.
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided for one-time, lump-sum payments of $15,000 to surviving Filipino veterans who were American citizens and $9,000 to non-citizens. As of January 1, 2019, more than 18,000 claims had been approved by the U.S. government, but nearly 24,000 had been denied, in part because of requirements.
To receive compensation, veterans must be on a list of 260,715 Filipino guerrilla fighters compiled by the federal government immediately after the war as well as the so-called “Missouri List” which is incomplete because of a 1973 fire that destroyed millions of military records, including those of many Filipinos who served during World War II.
Fortunately, free legal help is available through the University of Hawaii Manoa Legal Clinic.
Are you a veteran with or whose family has immigration issues? Did your Filipino WWII Veteran family member start a petition, but they died before completing the process?
Don’t give up your pursuit of justice without first talking to attorney Danicole Ramos at 808-956-0535.
As we celebrate Veterans’ Day and remember those who served us, we lift those brave Filipino WWII Veterans. Justice for Filipino WWII Vets and their families!
Hawaii Workers Center
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DR. ARCELITA IMASA is a practicing family physician and the secretary of the Hawaii Workers Center’s Executive Committee of the Board. She grew up in the Philippines before migrating to Hawaii with her family more than a decade ago.
by Dr. Arcelita Imasa