Opening Statement of Hon. Cliff Stearns, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
I want to welcome all of the witnesses and thank them for their testimony. I also thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing.
We are here today to discuss the question of equity; specifically what is equitable for Filipino veterans who fought alongside our forces to defeat the Empire of Japan in World War II and free their country. In this discussion, I am here to listen to all sides of the issue.
I do appreciate and understand the valor and courage of Filipinos in combat sixty years ago. House Resolution 622, which passed last session, recognized and honored these veterans for their defense of democratic ideals and their important contribution to the outcome of World War II.
There have been claims that Filipino veterans were promised full benefits by General Douglas MacArthur. While there are no records supporting such claims, and the general would not have been empowered by U.S. law to make such promises, we do know that Filipino men, many in their teen years, fought and died for freedom.
For the benefit of us all in this discussion, at a Veterans’ Committee hearing on this issued in 1998, now-retired Congressional Research Analyst Dennis Snook said, “Many Filipino soldiers apparently believe that their service was a basis for becoming entitled to whatever benefits might be given to U.S. military personnel.”
He said further, “In part, this belief could have been based on ill-advised promise made by U.S officers. No U.S. official was authorized to make such promises, and no evidence has been uncovered which suggests that such promises were made whether or not such authority existed to make them.”
Dr. Clayton Laurie, a historian with the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History, said essentially the same thing in that hearing.
So there is something less than full clarity on what the U.S. intended in those days. We know that President Truman supported benefits. We also know that since then, Americans have supported additional benefits in recognition of the valor and contributions of Filipino warriors.
With that, I am open to ideas and discussion that would help identify what is equitable – for all veterans, those here in the U.S, those abroad, and the American taxpayers who will pay for our solution.
I look forward to hearing today’s testimony
Again, I want to once again thank our witnesses who have traveled far to testify on this important issue.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.