Certificate of appreciation awarded to US lawmakers who pushed for WWII compensation
Manila (5 March) -- The Philippine government has officially recognized the key role that American legislators played in the successful passage of a U.S. legislation with a provision for additional compensation of USD198 million for World War II veterans.
At a reception on February 26 hosted by California Rep. Bob Filner at Capitol Hill, Philippine ambassador to Washington, Willy C. Gaa, awarded a certificate of appreciation to Filner and his colleagues who pushed the bill to its successful conclusion two weeks ago.
Aside from Filner, other Representatives who supported the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" (ARRA) were Mike Honda, also of California; Hawaii's Mazie Hirono, and Guam's Madeleine Bordallo, who were all present to receive their awards.
Also honored but were not unable to receive their awards in person were California's Darrell Issa, Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Xavier Becerra, Texas' Chet Edwards, Virginia's Bobby Scott, and Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie. Hawaii's Sen. Daniel Inouye led the pro-compensation contingent in the U.S. Senate.
Filner and Honda received a token of "Fighting Filipinos" poster from Gaa in recognition of their leadership for Filipino veterans.
The reception at the Cannon House Office Building was also attended by close to 90 people, comprised of leaders and members of the Filipino community, veterans groups, legislative staffers and embassy officials.
During the reception, the legislators congratulated the veterans on their victory and expressed their appreciation for the Filipino veterans' patience and faith amid efforts to accord them their well-deserved recognition and benefits.
Among the veterans was 92-year-old Celestino Almeda, who particularly mentioned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "for standing by (us) in (our) long quest for justice and equity."
Almeda is acknowledged as one of the most active US-based lobbyists in the U.S. Congress.
In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs about the awards night, the embassy said Almeda was joyful and happy with the outcome of his decades-long efforts.
Almeda was quoted to have said "one cannot truly appreciate the light if one has not been subjected to the darkness," as he recounted the suffering and ordeal that he and his fellow veterans experienced and witnessed during the war.
President Arroyo's foreign policy included all-out efforts for the release of the compensation. Unknown to many, her presence in Washington a few days before President Barack Obama was to sign the historic "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) on February 17 was part of her last-ditch moves to ensure that the bill reaches its logical conclusion.
The ARRA provides for a lump sum payment of USD9,000 for Filipino veterans and other non-Americans USD15,000 for American citizens.
Qualified veterans have until February 16 next year to file their claims. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs said only living veterans can make claims and estimated there are about 20,000 of them. So far, only about 3,500 of those who have applied in the Philippines appear to be qualified, according to the DVA.
Almeda also thanked all those who helped "make the victory possible," such as the members of the Filipino community, officials in the Philippine government, and the advocates and supporters of the bill in both Houses of the U.S. Congress.
Almeda's co-veterans, including Franco Arcebal of the American Coalition of Filipino American Veterans, echoed his sentiments during a separate reception in Los Angeles, California.
Earlier on February 18, US-based veterans conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at the Washington embassy in honor of the WW II heroes. It was originally scheduled to be held at the Bataan-Corregidor marker at the WWII Monument at the National Mall but was moved indoors due to inclement weather.
Also on February 18, a reception was tendered for Metro D.C. (District of Columbia) veterans and guests included staffers of such key U.S. supporters of ARRA as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
She is the same Washington politician who led the welcome for Macapagal-Arroyo and sat beside her when the latter attended the recent U.S. National Day of Prayer, just before ARRA was signed into law. (PNA) [top]