May 7, 2004  (STAR) By Col.( Ret) Frank B. Quesada, Former Senate Committee Secretary, Vets–Military Pension, Associate, PMA ‘44 -  “These intrepid Filipino-American soldiers are United States Army veterans,: said Rep. Gordon McDonough of the House of Representatives.

“There is a school of thought in our government holding the view that those Filipinos who fought with our forces in the Philippines under a military order of our President were “in the active service of the United States Army but not in the United States Army” and are therefore not entitled to veterans benefits provided for by law..”

They uphold the contrary view, namely, that those brave and loyal Filipinos are veterans – veterans de facto, hence – should be granted full veterans benefits.

I wish to call attention of Congress to this matter.

Mr. Speaker, our inaction in our treatment of the Filipinos who fought under our command with such valor and gallantry is bound to have international repercussions. We must let the Filipino down for the sake of simple justice and ouR international reputation.

First, the Philippine government did not receive lend-lease aid from us, and, second – that Filipino participation to the war had shortened it and thus have saved not only many American lives but also billions of dollars.

Mr. Vicente Villamin, a well-known Filipino economist, in an article had this to say:

“The Filipino who fought under Gen. Douglas McArthur has a story to tell the American people.

“In that war there were 16,000 foreigners who joined the U.S. Army They were considered veterans and were enjoying veterans benefits under the law. There were 400,000 Filipinos in that Army of the Philippines, but they were not considered veterans, and therefore, not entitled to veterans benefits, except for insurance and pension for death or disability, which are enjoyed by a small percentage in number.

“Thus, a Filipino soldier who was lucky enough to come out of the war unscathed gets nothing except the glory of having fought under the American flag made poignant by the chagrin of being read out as a veteran by postwar legalistic interpretations of his status.

“He is denied the benefit of the GI bill of rights, the mustering out pay, the Terminal leave Act, the six month’s death gratuity Act. And other Acts.

“The claim of the Filipino to recognition as a veteran rests on the fact that on July 26, 1941, the President of the U.S and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy and acting under act of Congress of March 24, 1934 – ordered the Philippine Army inducted into the American Army, and it was not until June 9, 1946, that it was released from under American military authority by anther order of the President.

“On April, 1942 – the Attorney General held that the Philippine Army was by the President’s inducting order thereby placed in the “active military service in the land and naval forces of the U.S.

“This was the law until the Congress in February 18, 1946 passed the First Rescission Act, declaring that that army was not in such active service and therefore not entitled to veterans benefits, with two exceptions noted above.

“Since then, the War Department ordered has recommended to Congress a bill extending to Filipinos the benefits tee befits of the Missing Person’s Act, which provide them with back-pay.

“On the induction of the Philippine Army 4 months before Pear Harbor, the American government assumed its expenses. Development and direction. There was no statement and at that time by the President of the U.S. or law of Congress that suggested even faintly that they were made to understand that they were other than soldiers of the U.S. Army.

“On the contrary, they were made to understand that they were such soldiers. They were proud of it, and they fought with more cest.. When they were ordered by the President of the U.S., the Filipino soldiers, who by law owed allegiance to the U.S. could not have refused to comply.

“The order was obligatory upon them as the Conscription Act, was on American citizens. They were roughly in the same position the members of the National Guard., who were ordered into. The Army and became veterans on honorable release.

“Stated in a different way, he President’s order had the force and effect of a Federal statute declaring the Filipino soldiers members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and that was the equivalent to enlistment en masse.

“The Filipino soldiers were not mercenaries or mere hired workers in uniform to be discharged summarily without benefit of veteran’s rights after their combat usefulness had ceased with the end of the war, which they helped hasten. They had acquired rights both inherent an derivative, while serving veterans benefits in full.

“The British soldiers, for example, who fought with the American forces under a unified command, are under a different category. They served under Anglo-American agreement to coordinate military operations.

“They were not under order of the President of the U.S. or a law of the U.S. Congress. Clearly, therefore, they are not veterans of the U.S. Army.

“The Philippine Army had lost its organic identity when it was integrated the American forces and, the Philippine government, which under the law then in force was merely a creature of the American Congress, were in temporary legal vacuum itself.

“These two facts were made patent at the Japanese surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay, where no Filipino representatives were invited to sign the surrender instrument, although representative of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Holland, France, china, Russia, and Great Britain did sign to punctuate their victory over the enemy".

But the Filipinos was partly reconciled to that symbolic exclusion because their friend , Gen. McArthur, signed the for Americans and for them. They were attached to America by ribbons of service and affection - an attachment so pathetic in its sincerity. And so it is hard for them to understand the legalists in Washington D.C. should now hold that they were not in the active service of the American forces when they ask as they now do, for veterans recognition.

“Filipinos as veterans in the postwar times would cost the American government money. But the Filipinos have saved much more money than the cost. Let this two following considerations be taken into account in this connection:

“First, Gen. McArthur has stated the participation of Filipinos in the war had shortened it considerably and saved many American lives. If it shortened the war, by 50 days, it had saved the U.S. some $15,000,000,000 at the rate of $500,000,000 of expenditures a day.

“Second, if the Philippine Army had not been inducted in the American army 4 months before Pearl Harbor, the Philippine government, ever loyal to the U.S. would have prepared for and waged a war as a separate entity and as such it would have received billions of dollars worth of lend-lease assistance from the U.S.

As it was, it received no such assistance. Filipinos deserve to be considered veterans of Americas armed forces. Strict technicality may militate against it. But equity is in its favor and fundamental policy fortifies it. # #


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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