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Equity, now what?

by Erin Pangilinan

Celebrating the close of Filipino American history month, the Smithsonian Museum honored the Filipino World War II veterans, who were denied equity due to the Rescission Act of 1946, which stripped Filipinos of their US citizenship and deemed them US nationals. Speakers recognized the passage of appropriated through the economic stimulus bill that was passed this year due to Senator Inouye’s leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Representative Bob Filner (D) of San Diego, where the largest Filipino American community in the country resides, is sponsoring a bill on Filipino American history month on Tuesday. Filner gave a brief recap of his work on veterans equity over the years and noted that there is much work still continues.

Out of the 18,000 estimated veterans, a whopping number 32,795 applied. Some veterans have applied for benefits, but been denied equity.

Photojournalist Rick Rocamora, who has documented the veterans equity struggle, said wives and children of deceased veterans do not benefit from the bill. After the bill’s passage, he recounted telling heartbreaking news to widows, children, and grandchildren, that because of the member of their direct family “died years ago, you will not receive a single cent”

Brigadier General Victor Corpus, Head of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Special Presidential Representative at the Embassy of the Philippines, will be working with retired Major General Anthony Taguba on processing the lump sum payments to applicants. Corpus is also a son of a WWII veteran who did not receive compensation. Corpus said that he and Taguba discussed three major components to compensation program plan: “1. how to help those who are denied the one time pensions. 2. how to help those widows whose veterans and spouses who have died after filing application 3. how we can help those who have been found eligible after the appeals process. This may take time, but we will pursue these avenues.”

The “recapture” bill in family reunification provisions originally apart of comprehensive immigration reform would allow widows and children of veterans to be exempt from the Philippines immigration cap and allow them migrate to join their families in the U.S. Corpus says that there will be support of family reunification bills and is lobbying Congress in November.

While equity has been achieved, one must ask how the FilAm community will continue to remember the injustices committed in denying veterans benefits due to their citizenship status. While there may be museums in the Philippines dedicated to the veteranos, the lack of curriculum on the veterans struggle is a huge gap in FilAm history. The fight for reparations for Japanese American internment and a few lines in K-12 history textbooks recognizing internment has taken decades. What is to ensure that generations from now FilAm children will be able to learn about the veterans?

Rick Rocamora plans to send his book, Filipino WWII Soldiers: America’s Second-Class Veterans, to public libraries across the country. Rocamora has been offered by the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley to acquire his large archive of photos to preserve. Other photojournalist, Paul Tanedo also plans to publish his work.  Rocamora also hopes that educators put together a syllabus of work to teach their students about veterans equity.

 

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