Arroyo urges US lawmakers to end injustice to Pinoy war vets
By PAOLO ROMERO
The Philippine Star
WASHINGTON (via PLDT) – President Arroyo urged Thursday US lawmakers and Filipino-Americans here to end the “lingering injustice” to Filipino World War II veterans by joining the campaign to pass the Veterans Equity Bill in the House of Representatives.
This developed as the powerful RP-US Friendship Caucus had assured Mrs. Arroyo that the bill will be passed by the House before the US presidential elections in November this year.
The assurance came from California Rep. Bob Filner, one of the founders of the bi-partisan caucus, which is supportive of Philippine interest.
He said supporters of the measure would try to put the bill to a vote in the plenary next month and obtain two-thirds vote or 290 votes. He said the two-thirds vote, not just a simple majority, would ensure that the measure, earlier passed by the US Senate, would be approved without amendments.
“We’re all working very hard but we hope that you gave the final push. We hope the final push (was) given by the President when she spoke to our President,” Filner told Mrs. Arroyo, referring to the meeting between US President George W. Bush and the President at the White House on Monday.
Mrs. Arroyo met with the caucus at the Veterans Committee Hearing Room at the Cannon House Office Building of the US Capitol complex on Wednesday.
“It is time to come here and tell you and press for the passage, for your support,” the President said.
During a program with members of the Filipino community at the Willard Hotel, Mrs. Arroyo said “the history of the war remains incomplete; the last chapter is yet to be written.”
“Equity for our Filipino veterans are the final words,” she said.
She thanked the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, American Coalition of Filipino Veterans and other groups that worked so hard to have the Veterans Equity Bill passed in the US Senate with a 96-1 vote.
“When the bill was calendared at the House of Representatives, your organizations, in an advanced Philippine-like fashion, launched a hectic ‘phone-fax-email campaign,’” Mrs. Arroyo said.
She said: “We wish you success in persuading the oppositionists to reconsider their position so as to correct a lingering injustice to our World War II heroes.”
The President recalled “when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called on the Filipinos to serve in the US Armed Forces after Pearl Harbor, our fathers of the greatest generation heeded the call.”
“The President of the US was our commander-in-chief. Filipinos fought as US soldiers side by side with Americans and died under the banner of the stars and stripes,” she said.
“They suffered from some of the most brutal acts during the last war, including the notorious Bataan Death March,” she said.
“Yet, they prevailed and together vanquished the enemy and brought freedom and human dignity back to Asia and the world,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo was tentatively set to meet with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama in Washington on Thursday night.
Philippine officials, however, were sending mixed messages as to whether the meeting would push through or not.
As of press time, officials said the meeting was scheduled to take place anytime between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. (8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday Manila time) in an undisclosed place in Washington.
Already confirmed is Mrs. Arroyo’s meeting with Republican presidential candidate John McCain in Washington at 12:30 p.m. Saturday (12:30 a.m. Sunday Manila time).
She was originally scheduled to meet Obama in Washington D.C. last June 24 or on the same day she met with US President Bush at the Oval Office in the White House.
Then it was moved to June 25 also in Washington D.C. but it did not push through.
Ambassador Marciano Paynor, Presidential Adviser for Foreign Visits and Consul General in San Francisco, said last week the White House did not find anything wrong with the scheduled meetings with the US presidential candidates.
“This is just a getting to know you type of meeting,” Paynor said. “At least she will already be acquainted with the future (US) president.”
He said such meetings are normal. He said the White House assured Philippine officials that there would be no strong reaction when Mrs. Arroyo meets with the two contenders.