Real Pinoy heroes to get US recognition

By Nimfa U. Rueda

LOS ANGELES—While thousands denounced a fake hero in Manila, the real Filipino war heroes would finally get the recognition they deserve.

The US Congress is expected to approve on Thursday a bill awarding the Congressional gold medal—the highest congressional honor—to Filipino veterans who fought for the United States during World War II as Philippine Scouts, members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and recognized guerilla units.

The Filipino Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Bill passed the Senate unanimously in July. After it is passed in the House today—a week before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day—it will be sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

“Congress will take the next step to recognize the brave and courageous service of Filipino World War II veterans,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono in a statement released yesterday. “The unanimous support this bill earned in the Senate and the overwhelming backing it has in the House honors the sacrifice so many of these veterans made for our country.”

Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2015, and have worked together toward the bill’s final passage.

The legislation acknowledges the 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against Japan during World War II.

“The House will take a historic vote to honor our Filipino World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal—our highest civilian honor, “ said Gabbard.

“These loyal and courageous soldiers suffered, fought and gave up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, and have waited decades for their service to be recognized.”

Out of the 260,000 Filipino veterans to be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, only about 15,000 are living.

Hirono said he recently joined one of the Filipino veterans, Domingo Los Banos from Kauai, aboard the USS Missouri on Veterans Day to recount how these veterans “were instrumental to our victory in the Pacific, but had to fight for decades to receive the benefits they earned.”

Although Filipino veterans were promised equal treatment as American veterans after World War II, the US Congress in 1946 enacted the Rescission Act that stripped away full recognition and benefits from them.

In 2009, Congress approved a stimulus package that included one-time payments of $15,000 to Filipino veterans in the United States and $9,000 to those living in the Philippines.

However, thousands of veterans’ claims were denied, mainly because US authorities did not accept records from the Philippines.