PGMA leads call for US Congress to create bicameral committee to finally enact Veterans Equity Law
New York (14 November) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has led the call on the United States Congress to immediately create a Bicameral Conference Committee to reconcile the veterans bills recently passed by the Senate and House of Representatives and finally enact the Veterans Equity Law.
In her speech in Chicago before the Filipino community in the US mid-West last Nov. 11, which happens to Veterans Day in the United States, President Arroyo stressed that something could still be done by the present US Congress to reconcile the conflicting provisions of Senate Bill 1315 and House Bill 6897 and finally award to Filipino war veterans what they have been fighting for during the past 50 years - recognition as war heroes like their American counterparts in the form of financial remuneration.
The President revealed that while Illinois Senator and now President-elect Barack Obama had expressed to her last June his support for the Veterans Equity, "I think we should not wait for the bill to be re-filed in the next Congress."
"So, on this day, Veterans' Day, I gave my instructions to (Philippine) Ambassador (to the United States) Willy Gaa -- and let's all do it, Filipino-Americans here in the United States -- let us urge the U.S. Congress to act now to organize the Bicameral Committee to reconcile Senate Bill 1315 and House Bill 6897 so it can become a Veterans' Equity Law," President Arroyo urged the hundreds of Filipino-Americans who braved the autumn chill to meet with her at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago in Illinois.
"So, I thank you for your plaque, our veterans. And let us continue to work for Veterans' Equity. You see, this is the first time in the history of our advocacy that the bill finally passed both Houses of Congress.
"Let's not waste that and have to go back to first base again in the next Congress. We've got to convince them that this is the time to have a Bicameral Conference Committee," the President advised, pointing out that, "Yes, the two versions are very different, but that's the way it is in all bicameral democracies."
"Our congressmen and congresswomen can tell you, in the Philippines, very often on a specific subject matter, the bill passed by the House, the bill passed by the Senate are as different as night and day. But, that's the reason why our institutions provide for a Bicameral Conference Committee to reconcile the conflicting provisions and that should be our mission for this coming month and the next month. So, let's all work for that," the President urged.
"Senator Obama also proudly made special mention of you, his Filipino-American constituents. And, in his letter, he wrote that the special bond of the Philippines with the U.S. is enriched by the vibrant and successful Filipino-American community that has made such enormous contributions to this country.
"Indeed, that is so true. You, our Filipino-Americans, especially here in the Midwest, in Chicago and surrounding areas, are successful in your chosen professions. And you are successful in your chosen businesses when you choose to be entrepreneurs in restaurants, in forwarding, in remittance businesses, whatever.
"And as a recognition of how important you are to the community, there are Philippine landmarks and community centers in strategic locations all around Chicago and the nearby states. These are evidence that, indeed, you are honored by America. Of course, you are honored by the Philippines as well," the President told the four million Filipinos in the United States in her speech that was broadcast on government television.
This Chicago meeting with Filipino-American elected officials and community leaders in the American Midwest was President Arroyo's first stop in her brief visit to the United States to address the 63rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Meeting on a Culture of Peace at the UN headquarters in New York City last Nov. 12. (PIA-MMIO) [top]