Pinoy war veterans suffer setback

By Jose Katigbak, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 26 2014 02:46 AM | Updated as of Jun 26 2014 10:46 AM

WASHINGTON – More than 4,500 Filipino veterans, whose monetary claims for their services to the US during World War II have been denied for over six decades, suffered another setback on Tuesday when the US Army stood firm on its rules and procedures establishing service eligibility requirement.

“Since the end of the war, the process of verifying service for Filipino veterans of WWII has not changed, nor should it,” US Army adjutant general Brig. Gen. David MacEwen told the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

MacEwen said it was not possible for the Army to conduct a better, more detailed and thorough investigation today than the one conducted between 1942 and 1948.

“The Army believes the decisions made 66 years ago were made by a competent authority that had the benefit of extensive post-war field work in conducting investigations, with first-hand evidence to determine claims validity,” MacEwen told the hearing convened to examine the defense department and interagency process for verifying service eligibility.

Brad Flohr, senior adviser for compensation service at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, said to remedy what some described as an injustice caused by the limited VA benefits available to Filipino World War II Veterans, Congress established the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) fund in 2009.

The fund provides eligible veterans who are US citizens with a one-time payment of $15,000 and non-US citizens $9,000.

“Of the 42,755 claims filed, 18,900 were approved, resulting in payments amounting to more than $225 million,” Flohr said.

Among the 23,855 applicants rejected for failing to meet eligibility requirements, 4,500 have appealed their case, alleging their claims were improperly denied or that they did not receive a satisfactory explanation as to why their claims were denied.

To qualify for FVEC payment, an individual must have served before July 1, 1946 in the Philippine Commonwealth Army, including recognized guerrillas, or in the New Philippine Scouts.

In determining whether claimants are eligible for any veterans’ benefit, including FVEC, VA must have verification from the US military service department as to whether the claimant has qualifying service.

For claims based on Philippine Service in World War II, the US Army is the relevant military service department.

VA requests verification from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), which since 1998 has acted as the custodian of the US Army’s collection of Philippine Army and guerrilla records.

Meanwhile, women’s group Gabriela yesterday held a protest action in Mendiola to reiterate their call for justice for victims of rape and sex slavery of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Earlier, Gabriela, along with allied group Lila Pilipina, held a picket in front of the Japanese embassy.

The protest actions were in light of President Aquino’s arrival from Japan, as well as the announcement by the Japanese government affirming the 1993 Kono statement, which offered Japan’s apology to victims of the sexual slavery policy of the Japanese Army during World War II.

“It is abominable that Aquino did not even put on the agenda of his P8.8-million state visit to Japan the plight of Filipino comfort women. Instead, he expressed support for Japan to revitalize its military expansionist policy and the resurgent militarism in the whole Asia-Pacific region,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general.

Salvador said the Filipino comfort women are living reminders that wars yield sexual abuses and rape of women and children.

The group criticized the Aquino government for not giving any support to the struggle of Filipino comfort women.

“Our comfort women are already in their twilight years. Some have died without attaining justice. It is utterly unforgivable for the President to keep mum over these abuses,” Salvador said.

Gabriela also expressed solidarity with Korean comfort women who suffered the same abuses from the Japanese Army during World War II, as well as other victims of military sexual crimes.

“Our collective history as women of the world is replete with sexual abuses committed in the name of war and militarism. The resurgent militarism in Asia-Pacific, which militaristic governments of the Philippines, Japan and the US push in the pretext of containing China’s military and economic muscle-flexing in the region, is a clear and present danger that women will continue to oppose,” Salvador said.

Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) assailed Aquino’s Japan trip, calling it “a most expensive junket that does not clearly benefit the Filipino people.” – With Rhodina Villanueva