WASHINGTON, D.C., March 14, 2017 – Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) community organizers from Los Angeles and New York convened in Washington, D.C. to visit the offices of 34 Congresspersons and lobby for their support of HR2766/S.3003, or the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, expected to be reintroduced in 2017, as well as HR4798/S.733, the Reuniting Families Act.
During World War II, an estimated 250,000 Filipinos and 7,000 Filipino-Americans were drafted or volunteered to join the United States Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE) to fight Japanese Imperialism in the Philippines. As a result of their service, the US government promised that the Filipinos would receive full recognition as American veterans.
But on February 18, 1946, the Rescission Act of 1946 was passed and declared that their service “shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits.” To this day, this racist law remains in place, barring veterans from being fully recognized as American veterans and therefore preventing them from getting equal access to services they deserve.
Equity for Filipino American Veterans
With HR2766/S.3003, JFAV seeks to gain equity for the veterans through non-retroactive military pensions for the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 veterans alive today, as well as survivors pensions for widows. JFAV also supports HR4798/S.733 which seeks to reunite children from the Philippines with their elderly Filipino veteran parents in the states after being kept apart for decades. Advocacy is needed now: at an average age of 90 years old, these veterans are passing away at a rate of 10 per day.
“With regard to our lobbying efforts in Washington DC, we are confident moving forward that the bill will be reintroduced in 2017. At the same time, we must remember that lobbying is but one way to organize,” said KmB / Pro-People Youth Chairperson Eddy M. Gana Jr. “Lobbying is a way for us to raise awareness about this issue, to get support at that political level. However, we must continue to build with our local communities, educating the youth as we move forward into the year.”
KmB was joined by ally organization Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change, represented by Terrenze Rienton. Looking forward, Rienton said, “We will be back here in the Spring and hope that more kasamas and more of our allies will be able to join us in these efforts for our Filipino American veterans. Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino.”
Justice for Filipino American Veterans is a nationwide alliance of Filipino World War II veterans organizations, youth, students, and community advocates based in the United States. Its aim is to attain the full recognition and just compensation, rights, and benefits for Filipino World War II veterans, their widows, and families here in the United States and those in the Philippines.
Eddy M. Gana Jr.
KmB / Pro-People Youth