By Abner Galino
FILIPINO American veteran leader Franco Arcebal recently urged the Filipino-American youth to continue seeking justice for his fellow World War II veterans who were denied rights by the government of the United States of America shortly after the war ended.
“You wouldn’t know (the injustice committed against the veterans) if no one had told you. That is why you need to continue telling others about our story so that the others would know,” Arcebal told a gathering in the historic Filipino town in downtown Los Angeles last week.
Arcebal, together Bernie Ganon and Art Garcia, prominent leaders espousing the causes of WW II veterans, were part of a panel that spoke to students and community youths in an event called Face to Face with Filipino American Veterans organized by Kabataang Maka-Bayan, pro-people youth group Los Angeles.
“It’s terrible. Can you imagine? A government propagating justice all over the world, but doing this injustice to Filipino veterans?,” Arcebal lamented.
Arcebal was referring to the Rescission Act of 1946 which took away rights and benefits from some 200,000 Filipinos who fought with the US military during World War II against the Japanese. The said law was passed by the US Congress a few months after it granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946.
Prior to this, the US Congress passed a law called the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the G.I Bill, which granted a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans that included low-cost housing, low-interest loans for business undertakings, cash payments for tuition and living expenses for vocational, high school and college education, and one year unemployment compensation.
The Filipino fighters, being US nationals during the time that they were enlisted to the US military, were eligible to receive these benefits. However, because of the Rescission Act of 1946, these benefits were taken away from the Filipino war veterans.
Arcebal lamented the fate of many of his contemporaries who have resorted to virtual panhandling and collecting empty plastic bottles and other recyclable materials in order survive here in the US.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanila, huwag naman. Bigyan naman natin ng dignidad ang ating pagiging beterano,” he recounted.
The veteran leader explained that the denial of benefits to the Filipino veterans was an act of bigotry which needed to be corrected by the repeal of the Rescission Act of 1946.
The US Congress had so far managed only to make little efforts to correct the injustice. In 2009, through an insertion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it granted a one-time $15,000 lump sum to veterans who were US citizens and 9,000 lump sum settlement for non-US citizens.
But the compensation, according to the veteran leader, was miniscule compared to what the actual benefits that were denied to the Filipino veterans.
Many of the veterans have died due to diseases and old-age but the convenors of the event said that repealing the Rescission Act of 1946 remains relevant because these Filipino veterans have families who should benefit from the sacrifices of their parents/ancestors.