by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Officials from the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV) and Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) are urging the FilAm community to walk out of their workplace on April 9, Bataan Day to show support for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act and Family Reunification Bill.
The two bills are currently stalled in the Senate and House of Representatives. The ACFV hopes a mass nationwide strike of FilAm workers can get the bills much needed national attention to jump start Congress to act on it.
“We [urge] our leaders in different cities to honor the heroism and gallantry of [the veterans] on Bataan Day by going on strike,” said ACFV Executive Director Eric Lachica. “We’re asking everyone to come out of their offices to honor our veterans.”
Lachica arrived in Southern California last week. He began the ACFV’s grassroots campaign for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act and Family Reunification Bill in Southern California last Thursday January 24. He’ll make similar speeches at the Filipino American Service Group Inc. (FASGI) in Los Angeles before heading to forums in Carson, Long Beach and San Diego.
Addressing a handful of supporters at the Search to Involve Pilipino American (SIPA) headquarters, Lachica reviewed the state of the two pending bills and the need for the community to take action.
“We’re synchronizing our efforts to make [the two bills] happen. All of the factors are in our favor,” said Lachica.
Lachica said that their focus within the next three months is to pass the reunification bill. The bill would reunite an estimated 20,000 children of Filipino veterans, whom many left behind when they arrived to the US. The bill would allow the sons and daughters to gain their US Visa without waiting for a formal petition, which would normally take more than 20 years.
“It’s very important that we get the reunification bill passed as soon as possible,” said Lachica. “As you may or may not know once the petitioner or the veteran in this case dies, the petition to the US for their children dies with them.”
Veterans cry that time is running out. The FilVet Equity bill has been stalled since its passage in the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees in the middle of last year.
Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) has maintained he will try to get at least 60 sponsors of the bill before placing it for open vote in the Senate, according to Lachica.
“There are ongoing discussions with the staff of Sen. Akaka and Republican leaders such as Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to ensure we have a bipartisan compromise on our family bill and equity pension bill.”
The much-heated compromise is to see whether Filipino veterans in the Philippines deserve as much or less than their American counterpart.
As it stands, Akaka’s bill proposes a $300 flat rate a month for Filipino WWII Veterans living in the Philippines, while their American counterparts will receive full VA benefits.
ACFV Vice President of Membership and former WWII Veteran Franco Arcebal said it’s most important to get benefits for those Filipino WWII vets still living in the Philippines.
“We are tired,” he said. “We are disappointed. We are even resigned to not get anything because of that disappointment. We want the US government to put their last efforts to give benefits to those veterans in the Philippines. Those veterans in the Philippines were relegated to nothing. Many are already resigned. We are only going to live for a few more years.”
Arcebal said many veterans have passed on with nothing to show for it.
“Their disappointment is buried with them,” he said.
Arceball added that Filipino veterans might be passing away but its time for new leaders to step up to the plate.
“We realize this is our last push, last chance for us veterans,” he said. “But it is not the last push for Filipinos. I know the young ones will carry on this once we are gone. We want these leaders to take the initiative while we fade away.”
Justice for Filipino American Veterans Coordinator Art Garcia said his organization is planning to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the 1946 Rescission Act on February 18.
“We are conducting an open forum for the Filipino American community so they can know about our veterans and their plight,” he said.
The forum will be held on February 18 at the Lake Street Elementary School in Los Angeles.