Saturday, February 21, 2009

Filipino vets bill passed: Now or Never?

"You would think he'd get love when he got to the States
Realized that all the promises they offered were fake

Denied benefits for Filipino veterans

Thousand miles away from home

Experiencing hell again."

-Kiwi, "Home"

"He left in late September

Said he'll be back in July
Now the child is askin,
'Mommy, why did Daddy have to die?'
She said, 'he fought for freedom'
But she knows its just a lie
Cuz her father was a veteran with benefits denied."
-Blue Scholars, "Back Home"

Lou Dobbs: "It's quite a shame that it's taken so long for our country to meet this obligation."

BakitWhy: "Pilipino Veterans Benefits Passes with Criticism"
VB2DC: "U.S. Congress Passes Filipino WWII Veterans Legislation"
FOBBDEEP: "Justice for Fil-Am Veteranos?"
LA Times: "Filipino Veterans to get long-overdue payment under stimulus bill"
Lou Dobbs: "Stimulus for Filipino veterans?" (video)
*New: Kuwento Kuwento: "The Filipino Veteran's Lonely Struggle"
*New New! BakitWhy: "JFAV and SAVE Respond to Veteran's Benefits"

We've heard Filipino emcees, poets, and visual artists using this issue as a staple when commenting on Filipino political issues. Perhaps many of us became "politicized" for the first time because of this very heated issue. But now that the bill addressing Filipino WWII Veterans service has passed (with the Stimulus Package last week), what's next? This all seems kind of anti-climactic, right?

Anyways, I'm sure many of you have been following the debate on the newly passed Filipino WWII Veterans bill that addresses the 1946 Recession Act that stripped the veteran status of Filipinos who fought alongside the U.S. as commissioned by the U.S. government. Filipinos were uniquely targeted in the Recession Act, as other countries also fought during the war alongside the U.S. but were still given U.S. veteran status and all its benefits. This occurrence is informed by the fact that the Philippines at the time just after the war was still under formal U.S. colonial rule.

Anyways, there is lively debate on whether the Stimulus Package passed by Congress and signed by President Obama sufficiently redresses the injustice done by the 1946 Recession Act. In an LA Times article, the provision in the Stimulus Package regarding the Filipino veterans is as follows:

"The bill authorizes a $198-million payout. Each Filipino veteran who became a U.S. citizen is eligible for $15,000; each noncitizen, $9,000." has some good analysis, especially in the "comments" section of the entry.

And VB2DC gives some very astute points regarding the debate. Here is a little snippet:

"Dissidents of the bill argue the following:
  • While the stimulus legislation recognizes FilVets for their service, some feel that it is not enough to rectify the 1946 Rescission Act which originally stripped them of veterans status, and that the lump sum payment is merely “crumbs” considering it only equals a little over a year’s worth of pension...
...Proponents of the measure express:
  • Timeliness of providing assistance to the veteranos as they are in their 80s & 90s. ...[A]t the congressional hearing in 2007, approximately 10-12 veteranos were in attendance. However, at the September 2008 markup hearing for the lump-sum bill, only 2 veteranos attended, sadly one of whom passed in December."
So these are the essential questions:

Is the recently passed Filipino Veterans legislation enough to redress the injustice inflicted by the 1946 Recession Act? And, if not, will there ever be a more sufficient bill that will pass?

Regardless if this bill fully recognizes and redresses the 1946 Recession Act, the Recession Act itself and the subsequent political movement of Filipino Veterans, community organizations, academics, students, and political groups stands as a testament and provides a teaching moment about the complex and dynamic nature of not only Filipino political issues, but the broader U.S. legislative process.

Where there is injustice, there is always resistance. So expect this topic--regardless of the new legislation--to still be expressed in the milieu of Filipino resistance art. In "Back Home," Geo may say, "I don't wanna keep singin this song," but it looks like artists will still keep singin this song, now with bittersweet tones.


MV said...

I just want to note that I'm not endorsing Lou Dobbs. His video piece is pretty informative. Otherwise, he's a populist, fanatic, idiotic ass. change the channel.

Boogie Brown/The Brian said...

I think the dissenting argument has a lot of weight. 60+ years of veterans benefits have to add up to a bundle more than $15k. However, I'm sure that price tag would never be paid for. At this point, I'm just glad to see them recognized and their honor (at least some of it) restored.