Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I make this amendment which is embodied in bipartisan legislation by a large group of Members of this body, including the gentleman from New York (Mr. GILMAN), who wrote the maiden legislation; the gentleman from California (Mr. CUNNINGHAM), who has been a strong supporter of this legislation; the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. SCOTT), who is with us today; and the gentlewoman from Hawaii (Mrs. MINK), who spoke earlier; and the gentlewoman from
California (Ms. PELOSI); the gentlewoman from California (Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD); the gentleman from California (Mr. FARR); and others who have contributed to this legislation.
Mr. Chairman, 55 years ago this Congress committed a terrible injustice. After World War II, after the victory that occurred, of course first in Europe and then in the Pacific, those who were drafted into the U.S. Army from our Philippines protectorate were unceremoniously deprived of the benefits that were promised and earned as veterans of the United States. In 1946 the then Congress rescinded all the benefits that had accrued to our Filipine allies.
There was no doubt of the contributions that the Filipinos made. Side by side with Americans, they held onto the Philippines and held up the Japanese advance for many, many, many months beyond what the Japanese had expected, and thus allowed the United States, at a terrible time in 1941, to prepare for the war.
These Filipinos fought at Bataan, where their resistance took many, many months. When they were finally captured, Americans and Filipinos were led on the famous death march, where hundreds and hundreds died on the march and later in the prison camps in which they were held.
They fought bravely at Corregidor, and again the Japanese were held up much longer than they had expected before they conquered the Philippines. Along with Americans who were in the Philippines, their guerrilla forces harassed for many, many months until MacArthur was able to return. When MacArthur returned and landed at Leyte and then was able eventually, of course, to defeat the Japanese, he attributed a good part of his victory to his Filipino allies.
President Roosevelt had drafted all the units of the Philippine Army, all of the members of the Commonwealth Army, all of the so-called scouts, the Old Scouts, New Scouts, all of the guerrilla units into the American Armed Forces. The implication was that they would be treated as American soldiers, and therefore, American veterans. But after the war was over, the Philippines did achieve independence and this Congress said, ``Thank you, but no thank you. Your new government can take care of you,
and everything we promised, we rescind.''
I thought that was a terrible injustice, Mr. Chairman. The injustice burns very deeply into the remaining veterans who are alive, barely 75,000 from over a quarter of a million or 300,000 who had fought in the war. They are in their seventies and eighties. What they want most before they die is the dignity and honor that would come from being American veterans.
This amendment I have before us is a step toward that where we provide them a very modest sum of money, $30 million, to be eligible for health care benefits, as any other U.S. veteran. I think this is the least of what we can do for these allies who did so much for us in World War II.
Mr. Chairman, because this has not been accepted earlier in authorization, I designate this as an emergency because it is an emergency. It is an emergency because our morality as a nation needs to be corrected, but more important, these gentlemen are about to die. Let us reward these folks finally with the honor and dignity that they deserve as our allies in World War II.
(Mr. GILMAN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. FILNER) to add $30 million in health care benefits to a group of veterans who are in desperate need of our assistance.
Filipino veterans who fought by our side in World War II have never received fair and adequate veteran benefits because of the Congressional Rescission Act of 1946.
I have long been an advocate of assisting our Filipino veterans. For the past several Congresses, along with the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. FILNER), we have introduced legislation to amend title 38 of the U.S. Code in order to provide that the persons considered to be members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army veterans and members of the Special Philippine Scouts, by reason of their service with the Armed Forces during World War II, should be eligible for full veterans'
Mr. Chairman, on July 26, 1941, President Roosevelt issued a military order, pursuant to the Philippines Independence Act of 1934, calling members in the Philippine Commonwealth Army into the service of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East under the command of Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur.
For almost 4 years, over 100,000 Filipinos of the Philippine Commonwealth Army fought alongside the Allies to reclaim the Philippine islands from Japan. Regrettably, in return, Congress enacted the Rescission Act of 1946. That measure limited veterans' eligibility for service-connected disabilities and death compensation, and also denied the members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army the honor they deserved for being recognized as veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
A second group of veterans, the Special Philippine Scouts, called New Scouts, who enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces after October 6, 1945 primarily to perform occupation duty in the Pacific, were similarly excluded from benefits.
These members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Special [Page: H4701]
Philippine Scouts served just as courageously as their American counterparts during the Pacific War in World War II. Their contributions helped to disrupt the initial Japanese offensive timetable in 1942 at a point when the Japanese were expanding their aggression unchecked throughout the western Pacific.
This delay in the Japanese plans helped to buy valuable time for the scattered Allied forces to regroup, to reorganize and prepare for checking the Japanese advance in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway.
Many have forgotten how dark those days before that victory at Midway really were. Their actions also earned the Philippine soldiers the wrath of their Japanese captors. As a result, many of the Filipinos joined their American counterparts in the Bataan Death March, suffering inhumane treatment which redefined the limits of human depravity.
During the next 2 years, Philippine Scout units operating from mobile, isolated bases in the rural interior of the Philippine Islands conducted an ongoing campaign of guerilla warfare, tying down precious Japanese resources and manpower.
In 1944, Philippine forces provided invaluable assistance in the liberation of the Philippine Islands, which in turn became an important base for taking the war to the Japanese homeland. Without the assistance of these Philippine units and guerilla forces, the liberation of the Philippine Islands would have taken much longer and been far more costly in lives than it actually was.
In a letter to the Congress dated May 16, 1946, President Harry Truman wrote, ``The Philippine Army veterans are nationals of the United States and will continue in that status after July 4, 1946. They fought under the American flag and under the direction of our military leaders. They fought with gallantry and courage under the most difficult conditions during the recent conflict. They were commissioned by the United States. Their official organization, the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth,
was taken into the Armed Forces of the United States on July 26, 1941. That order has never been revoked and amended. I consider it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of the Philippine veterans.''
Mr. Chairman, I believe it is time for us to correct this injustice to provide the members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Special Philippine Scouts with the benefits of the services they valiantly earned during their service in World War II.
These veterans are well into the twilight years of their lives. It is long past time for our Nation to pay meaningful acknowledgment to their valuable contribution to the cause of freedom and democracy in the Second World War.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. FILNER) to restore some measure of health benefits to Filipino veterans who fought in World War II. This amendment would simply provide $30 million in health care benefits through the VA system for those veterans who honorably served our country.
On July 26, 1941, President Roosevelt issued a military order calling members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army into service. For nearly 4 years, over 100,000 Filipinos of the Philippine Commonwealth army fought alongside the allies to reclaim the Philippine Islands from Japan.
A second group, the Special Philippine Scouts, enlisted after October 6, 1945. Despite their valiant service, Congress enacted the 1946 Rescission Act to limit their veteran benefits.
Mr. Chairman, this amendment would be a small step towards ensuring Filipino veterans receive benefits just like other veterans who served in World War II. For fundamental fairness, I urge the adoption of the amendment, and want to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. FILNER) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. GILMAN) for their leadership.
Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I would say, Mubulhi Ag Filipinos, and to Filipinos, mama haline keta Hunggung Wacus.
To the Filipinos I say, I will love you until the end of Earth.
I was stationed in the Philippines for many years, and I lived and almost died with them in Vietnam. I want to tell the Members, there is no more loyal group to the United States than the Filipinos.
I have never met a Filipino that turned his or her back on the United States or a friend, but I think this country has turned its back for too long on those people that fought and died for Americans.
General MacArthur said, ``I shall return.'' The Filipinos never left. They gave their todays for many, American lives. They fought and they died.
Many have seen the old John Wayne movies. They say, ``It was just a movie,'' but it depicted the lives and the sacrifices of Filipinos at Corregidor, Manila, Bagio City. Places like that, and the Bataan Death March, ring in our ears and our history, but yet, Filipinos lived and died in those issues, in those battles.
I served with thousands of Filipinos in the Navy that served on Navy ships. They served for 20 years just so that they could become American citizens. We have turned our back on them for 60 years with their sacrifices, what they have given to this country. They have never forgotten.
I think the gentleman from New York said, how many are left today? Not very many. Yet, we promised them as veterans, as freedom fighters, veterans' benefits. They have been turned down.
So I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. FILNER) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. GILMAN) and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. PELOSI), and people who support this issue.
Members will not see very many Filipinos on welfare. Instead, we will see their children at our universities, because if we go into the Filipino community we will see them honor God and country and hard work, and the family values that all of us cherish. But they live it every single day, not only as citizens here, but as citizens in the Philippines, as well.
The Navy right now, as a matter of fact, is short sailors. During a period of time, they were our most loyal sailors. I have a bill coming forward that says we ought to reinstitute that program to have Filipinos serve, so they could become American citizens, just like in the past.
I want to tell the Members, in San Diego, the last American flag to fly over the Philippine Islands before it fell, the gentleman from California (Mr. HUNTER) has it in his office. That flag, at great risk to a Filipino, when the Japanese tore it down in Bagio City, he wrapped it up in a piece of canvas and saved it for the end of the war, because it was of value to freedom. We should value those same traditions.
Today the President of the United States recognized thousands of Filipinos at the White House today for their 60 years of service as veterans. If we recognize that value, if we take a look and have a resolution to that from the President of the United States, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Principi, then it should be recognized that they deserve the benefits due to veterans.
We are asking only for justice, what we say we all stand for in this body.
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I will not use the full 5 minutes, but I did want to rise to associate myself with the comments of our colleagues who have spoken before on behalf of the Filner amendment to restore health care benefits to Filipino war vets, and I thank my colleague for his leadership in offering this amendment and his leadership over the years on behalf of Filipino vets. He has done more than anyone, and any of us who care about the Filipino vets and the commitment our country has made to them
are deeply in his debt.
As my colleagues have mentioned, for 4 years during World War II more than 100,000 Filipinos fought alongside the Allied Forces to free the Philippines from Japanese occupation. Drafted into the service in 1941 by order of President Roosevelt, these historic soldiers served under the command of Lieutenant General Douglas [Page: H4702]
MacArthur, fighting valiantly to recapture the Philippines and playing a key role in the allied victory in the Pacific.
Our Nation has not given these veterans the honor and respect they deserve at the hands of our country. In 1946, Congress denied benefits to these veterans and to another group of special Filipino Scouts who enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces after October 6, 1945. Although these brave soldiers, and many of their fellow soldiers, gave up their lives for freedom, our country denied them the recognition and benefits accorded to other servicemen and women in the Armed Forces. It took us 50 years
to give the Filipino Scouts the promised citizenship.
Mr. Chairman, many of us in our communities and all of us in our country are very blessed with a great Filipino-American community. In spite of the fact that we have not honored our commitment to them, they have blessed our country with their commitment to family values, with their commitment to the work ethic, and with their very, very staunch patriotism.
This amendment would make $30 million available to provide Filipino veterans with the same health care benefits received by other World War II vets. These World War II Philippine veterans are elderly now, their numbers are dwindling. A number of them are suffering from health problems. We are running out of time. It is time to right this wrong and give the Filipino vets the recognition they deserve in their twilight years.
I urge my colleagues to support the Filner amendment on health benefits for Filipino vets. It is the least we can do, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. MILLENDER-McDONALD. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I stand to first commend my friend and my fellow Californian for his tenacious leadership in keeping this front and center, this issue that is really an unfair issue, and that is giving due diligence to the Filipino veterans who served admirably in World War II.
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I simply rise in strong support of the Filner amendment to H.R. 2620, the VA-HUD appropriations bill. This amendment would appropriate $30 million for medical care and general health care benefits for Filipino World War II veterans.
I have perhaps the largest concentration of Filipino citizens in my district in the city of Carson, and I tell my colleagues that they are constantly crying and pleading for fairness to be done and say this amendment will begin to correct a wrong visited upon the Filipino veterans who served alongside the U.S. forces during World War II.
Our agreement or even disagreement with the current policy and economic pressures should never diminish our love and profound respect for the men and women who chose duty over personal safety and went into the battle-torn areas carrying our flag. We should have resources to take care of those Filipino veterans who have sacrificed on behalf of our Nation.
This amendment simply addresses the health care needs for a forgotten group of veterans, namely the Filipino veterans. These loyal and valiant men fought, suffered, and, in many instances, died in the same manner and under the same commander as other members of the United States Armed Forces during World War II. Their services to the Nation parallels others whose efforts and service have not been recognized or compensated.
We cannot forget the valiant and valuable services performed by the Filipino veterans. The Filner amendment will appropriate $30 million for the health care benefits for these veterans of World War II who were excluded from benefits by the Rescissions Act of 1946. As we continue to address the needs of our Nation's veterans, we should heed the word of President Lincoln who called on all Americans ``to care for him who shall have borne the battle.''
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and adhere to President Lincoln's call.
POINT OF ORDER
Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment because it proposes to change existing law and constitutes legislation in an appropriations bill and therefore violates clause 2 of rule XXI.
The rule states in pertinent part: ``An amendment to a general appropriation bill shall not be in order if changing existing law.''
The amendment directly amends existing law, and I would ask for a ruling of the Chair.