Hon. Darrell Issa
Thank you for holding this hearing here today on an issue that is dear to both of us. I know that you have put a lot of effort over the years advocating for the Filipino veterans achieve full equity. I have appreciated working with you as the fellow co-chair of the U.S.-Philippines Friendship Caucus to move this effort forward in the House.
Today, I am here to speak in support of HR 760, the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, which the Chairman and I have sponsored over the last two Congresses. It is unfortunate that, sixty-two years after World War II, we are still holding hearings, debating whether we should give these brave men the rights and benefits that were promised by our government.
The Filipino military was conscripted to fight under General Douglass McArthur after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. These Filipino soldiers fought, and in many instances gave their lives, side by side with Americans against the might of the Japanese empire. In the Battle of Bataan, these soldiers were cut off from all sources of assistance, yet they stood strong against a ruthless enemy for more than three months. These men fought to protect their native land, which was also American soil at that time. In defense of their homeland they displayed a strength of spirit that was not destroyed, despite the fiercest effort from the enemy. In the aftermath of the Battles of Bataan and Corregidor many of these brave soldiers then suffered through the atrocity of the Bataan Death March, which took more than 10,000 Filipino and American soldiers’ lives.
The men seeking equity today are of that great generation that turned back the tide of tyranny and oppression that threatened to overwhelm the entire world. They were promised full equity by our government, only to be denied it by Congress with the passage of the Rescission Act of 1946. In 1946, President Harry Truman stated, “I consider it a moral obligation of the U.S. to look after the welfare of the Filipino Army veterans.”
By passing, the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, the House will go a long way towards finally fulfilling our stated obligation. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there will only be 20,000 living World War II Filipino Veterans by 2010, and only about 10,000 that this legislation would need to cover. With the number of veterans growing smaller every year, time is truly of the essence.
I look forward to continuing to work with the Chairman on this legislation, and I thank him for bringing having a hearing on it so early in this new session.