FilVet REP and Rescission Act of 1946
First, our congratulations to former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin for his award from the Japanese government of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, in “recognition of his contributions to strengthening the relationship between Japan and the Philippines on national defense.”
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On July 26, 1941, just a few months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and US installations in the Philippines by Japanese air and naval forces, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a military order calling all military forces of the Philippine Commonwealth government and ordering them into the service of the armed forces of the United States. Under this order, over 200,000 Filipinos fought alongside American soldiers in Bataan, and together, suffered the tragedy of the Death March all in the service of the United States. As a commonwealth of the United States before and during the war, Filipinos were legally American nationals, entitled to all benefits afforded those serving in the armed forces of the United States.
On Feb. 18, 1946, just a few months after victory was attained with the surrender of Japan, the US Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, stating in effect that military service by Filipinos pursuant to a military order of President Roosevelt, would not be considered as in the service of the armed forces of the United States. In his recent book “Bound by War,” Christopher Capozzola, an award-winning author and history professor at MIT, wrote that the Rescission Act provided that “service before July 1, 1946 in the organized military forces of the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, while such forces were in the service of the armed forces of the United States … shall not be deemed to be or have been service in the military or naval forces of the United States … for the purpose of any law … conferring rights, privileges or benefits. Filipino soldiers were not American soldiers at least, when it came time to pay benefits … No GI Bill, no college loan, no home mortgage, no medical care, no widow’s stipend, not even a flag for a soldier’s casket. This was not America’s finest hour…”
In signing the bill into law, President Harry Truman appended a statement insisting that “there existed a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of Philippine Army veterans.” In July 1998, at a congressional hearing, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (now speaker of the House) stated: “I consider the Rescission Act of 1946 to be a scar on the historical record of the United States. In a time of war, we asked for and received the commitment of these Filipino soldiers to serve under US authority. While they were fighting for their country, they were also fighting for the United States.” The late US senator, Daniel K. Inouye, a Japanese-American who fought in the European theater of operations during World War II, criticized the Rescission Act for its “anti-Filipino discriminatory intent.” He said “the United States made a solemn promise and with hardly a hearing we revoked it. This episode is a blight upon the character of the United States, and it must be cleansed.”
In February 2009, 64 years after the surrender of Japan, the US Congress passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It provided for a one-time, lump-sum payment to Filipino veterans in World War II: $15,000 each for those who were US citizens, and $9,000 for non-US citizens.
Earlier, in 1988, the US Congress passed a law providing each of the surviving 60,000 Japanese-American internees who were herded into remote concentration camps after Pearl Harbor, the sum of $20,000 along with an apology for the grave injustice. President George H.W. Bush, in a letter of apology to each of the 60,000 internees said in part, “we can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustice was done to Japanese-Americans during World War II.”
Speaking on behalf of Filipino veterans, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (US Army, Ret.), chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVet REP), called on the US Congress to act and repeal the Rescission Act of 1946, that would “repudiate the injustice these veterans have suffered for 75 years, and to heal the indignation, pain, and sorrow they endured over a lifetime.” Former AFP chief of staff Gen. Alexander Yano, president of FilVet in the Philippines, and Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, head of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, both expressed support for Taguba’s efforts.
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