"Particularly important to note on this day is the continuing struggle of Filipino World War II veterans to receive the veterans benefits they rightfully deserve. During World War II, Filipino and American troops fought bravely together under some of the most trying conditions suffered by any forces during that conflict, forging a historic bond between our two nations and their people. Filipinos displayed great courage alongside American soldiers at Bataan and Corregidor, only to be denied their just benefits by our government. The Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would honor the service of all U.S. veterans, including these Filipino World War II heroes. The Senate passed this bill last April. I urge my colleagues in Congress to take note of this day to honor the heroic service of Filipino World War II veterans by finally turning this important legislation into law."
Such was the very eloquently written statement released by the office of Democratic Presidential Candidate and US Senator Barack Obama yesterday during the commemoration and celebration of Philippine Independence. Nice words indeed especially coming from a very charismatic leader and future (?) president of the most powerful country in the world.
A lot of Filipinos especially Filipino- Americans hailed the Democratic Standard Bearer's pronouncement of showing his support to the cause of the aging Filipino War Veterans in their fight for full recognition from the US government and restitution of full veteran status and benefits that they were entitled to in the first place that were unceremoniously stripped off by the US government because of the Rescission Act of 1946, an act of blatant discrimination against the United States' “Brown Brothers” since this was never the case with the other veterans of the 66 Allied countries that fought alongside Uncle Sam’s Army against the evil Axis powers.
Barack Obama for all his posturing and eloquence on the podium advocating change is nothing but a seasoned and wily politician just like many of his colleagues in Washington D.C. He can play and act the part that he wants to and can get away with it or so he thinks.
But contrary to a lot of delirious Filipinos, I am not buying his sugar- coated statements that he dispenses to entice the Filipino Community in the US to support him in his historic quest for the Presidency of the United States.
The statement that he dished out during our nation’s day of independence is nothing but a hallow ploy to get the coveted Filipino- Americans' vote in his fight for the White House against Republican John McCain come November this year.
For the truth of the matter, although he put his name as one of the co- sponsors of the said bill in 2007 that Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii espoused, he was far from being sincere in pushing for the passage of the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 in the US Senate.
In fact, he was nowhere to be found when it finally passed the Senate by a vote of 96-1. He was also absent when the Senate debated on an amendment that will remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino WWII veterans residing in the Philippines. The said amendment was narrowly defeated on the floor by a 56- 41 margin.
So where was Barack Obama during that particular time?
He was just busy on the campaign trail somewhere for the one- sided Democratic nomination that he already wrapped - up months earlier by virtue of his insurmountable delegates lead over Senator Hillary Clinton and conveniently forgot his obligation to the Filipino veterans for the bill that he promised to support.
On the other hand, Senator Clinton without fanfare took time out from her hectic campaign and flew to the nation’s capital to cast her vote in favor of granting full veterans status and benefits to their Filipino brothers in arms, 60 long years after the end of the bitter war.
Now, who do you think is more sincere between the former protagonists, media mileage notwithstanding?
But the issue between Barack and Hillary is water under the bridge now. But the issue regarding the status of these grizzled old warriors is still up in the air.
Note: Although the bill was passed in the Senate, the US House of Representative failed to act on it as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California removed it from the House’s agenda following a letter from a group of self- proclaimed Filipino patriots who were against the passage of the bill because it did not conform to their own version. It’s really a shame that the Filipino veterans' quest for recognition is once again torpedoed by another group of Filipino lobbyists on Capitol Hill with their own hidden agenda. Another case of Crab mentality at its worst, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, the 18,000 or so surviving Filipino WWII Veterans are being decimated by old age, diseases and illnesses day by day.