By Andrea Mackey
The faint murmurs of marching feet and determined chanting grow louder and clearer as Hollywood Blvd braces itself for the commanding power of hundreds of protesters, decorated and armored with vibrant signs and American and Philippine flags, ready to exclaim to the world that the Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) 17th annual march is here.
“Sum up the reasons why you march in a word.” Eddy Gana, KmB Chairperson, begins the JFAV working committee meeting. “Justice,” responds one member. The rest of the room is filled with “Resilience. Strength. Equality. Honor. Family. Solidarity.” These weighted words hold the power to create change. These words have emboldened 10 organizations to organize the march. These words have enlisted 49 organizations and counting to endorse the march with 25% of them not even Filipinx identifying. These words continue to spurn the end to The Rescission Act of 1946–a law that retroactively annulled benefits that would have been payable to the 250,000 Filipino and 7,000 Filipino-American Veterans. Unfortunately, these words are nothing new.
It’s been 17 years since the first JFAV march. It’s been 71 years since the veteran’s struggle began. It’s been 75 years since the Bataan Death March where 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced to endure 100 km of severe abuse and torture.
After every JFAV march, we celebrate our efforts and hope we do not have to meet, organize, and march again. Another march signifies justice is denied once again.
There have been small victories won over the years; however, it’s only partial equity that have been granted. JFAV has been able to win burial benefits in US national cemeteries and gain health access for veterans at Dept. of Veterans Affairs hospitals. Yet this was met with justified criticism as WWII veteran Mang Franco Arcebal declared, “We said, what benefit is this? You need us to die first.”
In 2009, veterans were offered a lump sum of $15,000 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Unfortunately, there was a quitclaim attached to receiving the lump sum, meaning that those who received the money would not be allowed to get any other veteran benefits in the future. Moreover, over half of the veterans who did apply for the lump sum were denied. Despite the Old Philippine Scouts, Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, recognized guerrilla forces, and New Philippine Scouts all fighting in WWII, only the Old Philippine scouts have been fully recognized.
Recently, we have celebrated the passing of the Congressional Gold Medal Act. It is an admirable step towards recognition and one the veterans want; however, it excludes women and children.
With less than 15,000 veterans averaging around 90 years old and passing away at a rate of 10 per day, who will be around to receive the honor?
2017 marks the 71st year of WWII Filipino American veterans fighting for the honor and recognition of their courage and sacrifices. Our words of why we march will be powerful if we reach out to congress and push for the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act (HR 3865). We need to advocate for survivors to receive benefits (survivors’ pension). We need to make sure veterans receiving lump sum from ARRA do not forfeit their claim to other benefits. We need to repeal The Rescission Act and recognize all four veteran groups. It is not too late to correct this historical misstep of 71 years.
On November 11th, we take to the streets of Hollywood at 10 am to fight for full equity for Filipino American Veterans. On November 11th, President Trump will be in the Philippines at the same time when our voices will be heard, discrimination will be fought, and equity will be demanded. On November 11th, injustice will not prevail. Makibaka! Huwag matakot!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Learn more about Justice for Filipino American Veterans here(via @kmb_la)
Donate to Justice for Filipino American Veterans via PayPal.
Text Congress to Cosponsor the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act (HR 3865)
1. Text RESIST to 50409
2. Follow its instructions. Text your address. It will tell you your representatives.
If your Congressperson has NOT sponsored:
1. TEXT HOUSE and you can insert corresponding script
2. Hello ____________,
My name is __________, and I am one of your constituents. On behalf of the remaining 15,000 Filipino World War II Veterans both living in the United States and the Philippines and their 68,000 survivors, we ask for your support and sponsorship of HR 3865 (Filipino Veterans Fairness Act), a recently reintroduced bill by Representative Jackie Speier.
It is not too late to recognize Filipino World War II veterans and their wartime service as American veterans as promised by President FDR. While the recently passed Congressional Gold Medal Act is an admirable step towards recognition and one the veterans want, veterans still fight for full equity. Let us remember the veterans’ courage and sacrifices by recognizing the 75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March where 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced to endure 100 km of severe abuse and torture. Let us honor the veterans with your sponsorship of Filipino Veterans Fairness Act.
Thank you for your consideration.
If your Congressperson has sponsored:
1. TEXT HOUSE and insert the corresponding script:
2. Hello __________,
My name is ____________, and I am one of your constituents. On behalf of the remaining 15,000 Filipino World War II Veterans both living in the United States and the Philippines and their 68,000 survivors, we thank you for your continued support and sponsorship of HR 3865 (Filipino Veterans Fairness Act), a recently reintroduced bill by Representative Jackie Speier.
As this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March where 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced to endure 100 km of severe abuse and torture; it is critical to gather more support and sponsorship for the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act to honor the veterans’ courage and sacrifices.
Thank you for your consideration.
Text Done and then Send! Repeat and share on social media. Get more folks to text RESIST. (You may adjust the script as you would like).