17th Annual Justice for Filipino American Veterans March

On Veterans Day, November 11th, over 300 marchers and thousands of spectators concluded the 17th Annual Justice for Filipino Veterans (JFAV) March in Hollywood, CA. With previous mobilizations in Historic Filipinotown 2001-2008 and Downtown Los Angeles 2009-2011, this march is the sixth time in its history to reach a wider audience in the entertainment capital of the world.

Per context, 260,000 Filipino soldiers answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order to fight against fascism in World War II in exchange for full military benefits. Thereafter, the Rescission Act of 1946 exclusively denied the majority 250,000 Filipino veterans all that was promised to them for serving in the American armed forces. Although there has been partial success over the years through community organizing ad legislative lobbying, such as burial allowance and flag, compensation for service-connected disability, and educational benefits for children, today’s remaining estimated 15,000 veterans are still waiting for full equity and genuine recognition.

JFAV National Coordinator Arturo P. Garcia said, “This Veterans Day rally [was] a special one. This is the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan and the infamous Death March that followed the surrender of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE) on April 9, 1942.”

This year, we remembered our veterans’ courage and sacrifices by recognizing the 75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March where 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced to endure 100 km of severe abuse and torture.

Starting on Hollywood Blvd and Ivar Ave, the march organized five stops with solidarity statements commemorating the Bataan Death March: (1) Mariveles, Bataan, (2) Lamao, (3) Balanga, the capital of Bataan, (4) Lubao, Pampanga, and (5) San Fernando Pampanga. In memory of those veterans who have passed away, a 71 second die-in on Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave was conducted with hundreds laying in the streets to represent 71 years of injustice.

KmB / Pro-People Youth Chairperson Eddy M. Gana Jr. said, “[We marched] for three demands. (1) We demand that the lump sum under ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) should have no quit claim attached to their benefits. (2) We demand that the widows and children to be eligible for the Survivors Pension like the families of all U.S. veterans. (3) We demand that HR 3865 / Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2017 must be sponsored by your local House representative immediately and signed into a law in 2018.”

Thank you to the following 51 endorsing organizations:

  • Adoptee Solidarity Korea – Los Angeles (ASK-LA)
  • AF3IRM Los Angeles Chapter
  • Alliance Philippines
  • ANSWER Coalition
  • Cal Poly Pomona Barkada
  • Cal Poly Pomona Pilipino American Studies Kollective
  • Chi Rho Omicron, Cal Poly Pomona
  • Claremont Colleges Kasama
  • CSU Channel Islands Kilusan Pilipino
  • CSUDH Pagsikapan
  • CSUF Pilipino-American Student Association
  • CSULA Asian Pacific Islander Student Resource Center
  • CSULA Kalahi Filipino-American Student Organization
  • CSULB Pilipino American Coalition
  • CSUSB Lubos P.A.S.O.
  • CSUN Filipino American Student Association
  • Filipino Community Center (FCC)/FACLA
  • Filipino American Service Group, Inc.
  • Fresno Brown Berets
  • JFAV – Nevada
  • JFAV – San Francisco
  • Kaya Collaborative
  • Kappa Psi Epsilon, Alpha Chapter, CSULB
  • Kappa Psi Epsilon, Delta Chapter, UCLA
  • KmB / Pro-People Youth, Los Angeles
  • Lakas Mentorship Program
  • Los Angeles Greens
  • March and Rally Los Angeles
  • PANA – Progressive Asian Network for Action
  • Party for Socialism and Liberation – Los Angeles
  • Pilipino Workers Center
  • Southern California Pilipino-American Alliance (SCPASA)
  • SDSU Andres Bonifacio Samahan
  • This Filipino American Life
  • UCI Alyansa Ng Mga Kababayan
  • UCI Kababayan
  • UCLA Samahang Pilipino
  • UCLA School of Public Affairs API Caucus
  • UCLA Tinig Choral
  • UCR Katipunan PSO
  • UCSD Kaibigang Pilipin@
  • UCSD Kamalayan
  • Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change
  • USC Asian Pacific American Student Assembly
  • USC Asian Pacific Islander Social Work Caucus
  • USC Student Org
  • USC Troy Philippines

Earlier in 2016, HR 2737 / the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act was passed by both House and Senate in an attempt to recognize our veterans. While it is true that one will be displayed at the Smithsonian, there are five reasons why this legislation falls short of genuine recognition, (1) this is a civilian honor, not a military one, (2) veterans must pay with their own money $52 each for a bronze duplicate, (3) veterans must undergo a similar vetting process as the lump-sum by ARRA, (4) deceased veterans are excluded, (5) and survivors and families are also excluded.

Gana said, “While the Congressional Gold Medal Act is a step forward, we must continue to fight for full equity with the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act.”

The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act eliminates the wrongful division they made between the four Filipino military groups that served in WWII: Old Philippine Scouts, Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, Recognized Guerrilla Forces, and New Philippine Scouts. Only the Old Philippine Scouts (10,000) received full equity, and the other three groups (250,000) were denied justice. Considering that the first version of this bill was introduced in 1993, community advocacy and direct action must continue both locally and nationally.

With an estimated ten WWII veterans passing away each day, WWII veteran Roger Dagdag (age 96) ended the march with a riveting speech and said, “Thank you young people, your veterans are thankful to you because in spite of the struggle for many years, you are still here fighting.”

As community organizers, KmB / Pro-People Youth salutes all student and youth leaders to carry on this fight for full equity. #JFAV17 was a success and next steps include community service opportunities in Historic Filipinotown and local lobbying. Text 50409 to ResistBot and demand your House representatives to support HR 3865 / Filipino Veterans Fairness Act.

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