FILIPINO VETERANS EQUITY ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 22, 2008)
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Mr. FILNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, this bill, rights a wrong that has existed for more than 60 years. Filipino servicemembers played a critical role in the United States' victory in the Pacific during World War II.
They exhibited great courage, as we all know, in the epic battles of Bataan and Corregidor. Many died in the famous Bataan Death March. Those who survived, and others who escaped, continued to harass the Japanese as guerilla units. When MacArthur returned, they joined in the victory of the retaking of the Philippines.
This bill would provide a one-time payment to the courageous Filipino soldiers who fought side-by-side with American GIs. There is no disputing the valiant service that these men provided in the Pacific.
Unfortunately, during a less-than-noble moment in our history, Congress passed the Rescission Acts of 1946, which stripped them of their veteran status and denied them the right of any benefit. While some veteran benefits have been restored for a few soldiers on a limited and piecemeal basis, for the large majority, they have never received a dime for their service. This is wrong.
When these men were called up to service by President Roosevelt, they were still considered Americans who were under territorial rule. Even if decades later, we must recognize the service of our Filipino soldiers and demonstrate the gratitude all of our soldiers deserve for doing what they were asked to do nobly and without complaint.
Let me remind you what President Truman said when he signed the so-called Rescission Acts, even though he disagreed with part of it. Truman said the passage and approval of this legislation ``does not release the United States from its moral obligation to provide for the heroic Filipino veterans who sacrificed so much. Philippine Army veterans fought as American nationals under the American flag and under the direction of our military leaders.''
H.R. 6897, as amended, will give a long overdue one-time payment of $15,000 for U.S. citizens and $9,000 for those who were citizens. By doing this, we will provide a small, yet meaningful, measure of recognition and thanks to these brave men who deserve far, far more.
It is time that this Congress and our Nation recognize their contributions to the successful outcome of World War II, recognize the injustice visited upon them and act to correct this injustice. To those who ask if we can afford to redeem this debt, I say we can't afford not to. The historical record remains blotted until we recognize these veterans.
I hope all my colleagues will join me in supporting these veterans and would reserve the balance of my time.
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