PALO, Leyte, Philippines -- World War II Filipino war heroes were honored yesterday (October 20) during the 67th commemoration of the Leyte Gulf Landing Anniversary in Palo, Leyte, Philippines.
Philippine president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was the guest of honor of the event, said his administration is doing everything to pay tribute to those sacrifices and heroism done by the Filipino war veterans during the “last major naval engagement of World War II" in Red Beach, Palo, Leyte.
In his message, Pres. Aquino said he has been observing the active participation of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) in updating the list of pensioners, which will served as basis of the US government to pay them fairly.
“We have improved the medical needs of the Filipino war veterans and their families,” Aquino said adding that as of August this year, some 562 government hospitals had been made accessible to all the veterans.
The veteran’s continuous battle
Meanwhile, it was learned that the Filipino war veterans here and abroad continually sought for the fulfillment of another promise made by the US military.
Accordingly, the US military promised full veterans benefits to Filipinos who volunteered to fight, which prompted more than 250, 000 to do so.
However, in 1946, then President Harry Truman signed the Rescission Act, which stripped Filipinos of the benefits they were promised when they helped the US fight against the Japanese.
The US government cited the $200 million it gave the Philippines after the war as its reason for stripping the benefits.
Some 200,000 Filipinos fought in defense of the US against the Japanese and more than half died. As the Philippines were a commonwealth of the US at that time, Filipinos were legally recognized as American nationals then.
However, after the Rescission Act was signed, Filipinos lost the benefits entitled to them as American nationals who served in the armed forces of the United States.
In 2009 — after fighting for more than 60 years for their rights —the Filipino war veterans who are still living were recognized with a $198 million appropriation.
War veterans who were US citizens received $15,000 each while non-citizens, $9,000 each.
But war veterans from Leyte and Samar maintained said compensation is “not enough” for the remaining veterans who can no longer make a living.
President Aquino assured the war heroes that the government is appealing to the US government to grant those denied claims of some veterans in the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act of America.
“Just a few months ago, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with United States Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) Secretary Eric Shinseke to appeal for a more liberal system in processing the claims of Filipino veterans,” Aquino said.
US record revealed that as of August this year, 42, 553 applications were processed: 9,291 approved for non-US citizens, 9,137 approved for Filipino veterans with US citizenship, and 24,125 applications disapproved.
Meanwhile, this year’s commemoration of Leyte Gulf Landings were attended by allied country representatives such as US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas, Jr., Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe, Australian Defense Attacheand Canadian Counselor for Political Economic Relations and Public Affairs James Christof.
The famous vow “I shall return”
In 1944, Generalat the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, and accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, landed on Palo, Leyte, to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.
Gen. MacArthur made true his famous vow - "I shall return" - following his escape from Corregidor on March 11, 1942 for Australia, together with his wife and four-year-old son, and others on orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as the Philippines was being overrun by Japanese Forces.
The Leyte Landing on October 20, 1944 during the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945) of the Philippines marked “the last major naval engagement of World War II."
The landing saw the fulfillment of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s promise to Filipinos, “I shall return." The Philippines was a colony of the US (1898-1946) when the Japanese occupied the Philippines.
Days after MacArthur's landing, Allies fought the "Battle of Leyte Gulf" or the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, which was dubbed as "the largest naval battle in modern history.
For three years during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-45), MacArthur received at his base in Australia reports on enemy movements, losses, strengths, and disposition of troops.
On July 4, 1945, he proclaimed the liberation of the entire Philippines from Japanese invasion. (Ricky J. Bautista)