Daily Archives: May 22, 2013

GOODBYE VETERAN FELINO PUNZALAN, WE SALUTE YOU

JFAV UPDATE

May 22, 2013

GOODBYE VETERAN FELINO PUNZALAN, WE SALUTE YOU

By Marivir R. Montebon

New York — War veteran Felino Punzalan may have to wait till eternity when the US government will finally give the full benefits to Filipino World War II veterans for having served the war that won America as the single most powerful country in the world.

Punzalan, a frontliner in claiming those equity benefits, passed away peacefully in his sleep early May 2013 in San Francisco, California.  He has yet to see justice meted for himself and his colleagues who are in their twilight years.

He served the World War II but because his name was not in the Missouri List, he was unable to get any benefit from the US government as one of its freedom fighters. He died fighting for his right, at age 95.

The MHC had accorded Punzalan a Lifetime Achievement Award during its 2011 People’s Ball celebration in Washington, DC for his dedication to claim full entitlement and benefits to WW II Filipino veterans.

The aging Philippine soldiers have ceaselessly campaigned for Pres. Obama to extend full benefits to Filipino veterans who until now have been denied the corresponding benefits as war heroes.  All the other WWII veterans of the 65 allied countries were given full benefits by the US government, except the Filipino soldiers.

Punzalan, and the other Filipino soldiers, call this institutionalized racial discrimination.

Two groups, under the Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV), have lobbied for their equal protection, one belongs to the Filipino veterans and the other group is composed of widows and children of the veterans who passed away.

Recently, the veterans found an ally in the office of Democratic US Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid-NV who promised to work closely with equity champion Senator Brian Schatz-HI and other leaders to bring about the passage of S690, “The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013,” on the floor.

This came as a result of the week long lobbying by volunteers of the JFAV at the Capitol. The office of Senator Durbin recommended either to right away co-sponsor or vote for the bill when it’s on the floor. On June 5, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, headed by Democratic Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders decided to conduct hearing for the Fairness Act and other bills related to veterans’ bills after it was cancelled last May 15.

Schatz was given the right to stand up and state support for the bill he introduced. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski- AK together with Senators Mazie Hirono- HI and Mark Begich- AK co-sponsored his bill.

In the House, Rep. Jackie Speier- CA introduced a companion bill with 33 co-sponsors including Republican Joe Heck- NV. Schatz called on his colleagues in Congress to join him in moving swiftly to pass this legislation, “so that we can finally fulfill the promise of equal rights for thousands of veterans across the country, and fully honor the men and women who served our country so bravely in a time of war.”

JVAC coordinator Arturo Garcia welcomed the bill of Sen. Schatz. “The Fairness Act by Senator Schatz provides

unconditional recognition and full compensation while the Promise Act by Senator Heller simply affirms the lump sum payment for pain and suffering, and minimizes benefits,” said Garcia.

He added, “Fairness Act provides lifetime monthly pensions for both veterans and widows. The other bill does not even talk of equity at all nor recognize the rights of widows to receive benefits.They are not complementary as the other bill negates the core provisions of the Fairness Act that deals with full recognition, full compensation, racial equality, and inclusion of survivors as beneficiaries.”

Aside from lobbying at the Capitol, the veterans are asking a certiorari on their case before the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeals in California affirmed the decision of the district court to dismiss their benefit claims in February this year.

A certiorari is a writ that the Supreme Court issues to review a lower court’s judgment for legal error where no appeal is available as a matter of right.

As their legal counsel, Arnedo Valera of the MHC posed two questions before the Supreme Court on a writ of certiorari filed early May: (1) Whether or not the US Court of Appeals committed reversible error in holding that a due process challenge before the District Court on the VA’s exclusive reliance on records from the NPRC to verify service history of the petitioning Filipino War Veterans is precluded by 38 USC §511(a), the jurisdiction-stripping of the Veterans’ Judicial Review Act (VJRA). And (2) Whether or not the US Court of Appeals committed reversible error in holding that the constitutional rights of the petitioners to equal protection are not violated by Sec. 1002 of ARRA 2009 notwithstanding that it provides to US citizen Filipino War Veterans whose service has been recognized as active military service, and their surviving spouses, less benefits than what other US war veterans receive.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision February 7, 2013, affirming the district court’s earlier decision to dismiss the case of Filipino WW II veterans and widows for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction claims.

Valera, in his argument before the Court of Appeals in California on behalf of the veterans, said that because the

Filipino veterans were duly recognized as war heroes through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, they have to be given US citizenship and as such must receive all the same benefits as their American counterparts. Valera further argued that the process of identifying the veterans was problematic, with only the Missouri List as sole reference.  There were thousands more of veterans who participated in the war who were not included in the list.

“I gave my life as a USAFFE guerrilla defending the US during the war, and now I got this letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) saying that my name was not in the ‘Missouri List’, therefore I am not an American veteran and I cannot receive any payment, “ said war veteran Regalado Baldonado. “This is ridiculous.”

Under the Rescission Act of 1946, the Filipinos were singled out from the 66 Allied nationalities not to receive full benefits. After long arduous years of campaigning, 63 years later, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009.

From this law was created the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund where Filipino veterans were given a lump sum of $15,000 (those in the Philippines were to be given $9000 quit claim benefits) as payment for pain and suffering in defense of the US, instead of the monthly pensions, educational benefits, and other equity benefits accorded to a US veteran.

To the veterans, the quit claims was a far cry from the full benefits they deserved, as their local counterparts were recognized and given benefits as full US citizens as entitlement and compensation to the war.

Adding insult to injury, the FVEC has excluded about 24,000 Filipino veterans from receiving the lump sum benefit, out of the estimated 41,000 veterans in the US and the Philippines. Most of the widows were denied since the law did not cover those who became widows before the enactment of the law.

The veterans questioned the Department of Veteran’s Affairs exclusive reliance on the “Missouri List” as official record of US military service. The list was burned down in 1973 and as much as 80% of the list from 1912 to 1960 was lost.

The MHC, through Valera, thus joined the call for Pres. Obama to take action on the case of the Filipino war veterans.

“They are the heroes of democracy. It is but proper that we give what is due them,” he said.

The remaining Filipino soldiers, like the late Punzalan, have steadfastly continued to lobby for their demands in court and among sympathetic legislators with what little time they have. #

 

Lobbying at Sen. Schatz’s office

 

War veteran Felino Punzalan: Waiting till eternity

 

Valera and the vets in Congress. Punzalan at the left-most seat.

ALL SET FOR THE FIRST PH INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE in HISTORIC FILIPINOTOWN ON JUNE 8

Media Release

May 22, 2013

ALL SET FOR THE FIRST PH INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE in HISTORIC FILIPINOTOWN ON JUNE 8

Los Angeles—Two weeks to go, and  it’s all set for the first  Philippine Independence Day Parade in Historic Filipinotown.

This was announced by no less than the Deputy Consul Daniel Espiritu and Arturo P. Garcia, of People’s CORE and FACLA , the parade coordinator  during the ever  joint Fellowship of three different chapters of the Knights of Rizal (KOR) was successfully held at the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) last Sunday, May 19, 2013.

Deputy Consul Espiritu confirmed that more than 50 regional and provincial organizations have confirmed their intention to participate in the parade to be held in Historic Filipinotown on Saturday, June 8 starting at 8:OO AM.

The FACLA Compound  at 1749 W, Temple St/Burlington St will be the starting point of the parade.

Independence Day Grand Parade in June 8

Deputy Consul Daniel Espiritu, also confirmed that at least 20 organizations will participate in the Festival program after the parade to be held at the compound of the Silver Lake Medical Center where the festival program will be  held up to 4:00 PM.

The different organizations  will have their own booth and display  the particular culture, tradition and products from their places.

This is the first time that a Philippine Independence Day parade will be held in Historic Filipinotown. The last parade that passed through the area was at the 100th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence in June 1998.  The parade started from Macarthur Park and ended at Echo Park.

This time the parade will start the FACLA /Burlington St and will go to Dillon St. at SIPA and will march back to FACLA and the Silver Lake Medical Center for the afternoon event at the festival program.

For more information on the Independence Day PArade in HFT please call (213)484-1527 or email at pilipinokami76@yahoo.com

 

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PASSED AMENDMENTS FOR FILVETS FAMILY REUNIFiCATION

JFAV UPDATES

May 21, 2013

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PASSED AMENDMENTS FOR FILVETS FAMILY REUNIFiCATION

Los Angeles— The  Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) and all its allies applauds Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) for her work to strengthen our family immigration system.

Arturo P. Garcia , JFAV National Corodinator said; “ Although JFAV is extremely disappointed that the news from Washington reported today that the Senate Judiciary committee refused to accept Sen. Hirono’s amendment, which would have provided limited relief for families experiencing extreme hardships.

On the other hand we are happy that Sen. Hirono also offered an amendment to allow Filipino World War II veterans to reunite with their loved ones here in the U.S., which passed by a voice vote.”

JFAV Commends Hirono

JFAV’s Garcia also  commended Sen. Hirono’s willingness to stand up for our communities and for leading the efforts to restore justice to Filipino veterans and their families. “ We also  thank Sen. Hirono and the six members who stood with the millions of families awaitingmeaningful family reunification. We look forward to working with the Senate on a solution that addresses all families.” Garcia added.

As the only immigrant on the Senate Judiciary committee and in the U.S. Senate, Hirono offered an amendment (Hirono 10) that, if adopted, would have alleviated the extreme hardship some immigrants may experience due to the prolonged separation from their brother, sister, son or daughter not in the U.S. This amendment failed on a vote of 7-11. For many U.S. citizens a sibling or adult child abroad may be the only family he or she has.

Effects on Filipinos and Asian Communities

For JFAV and all immigrants advocate, Garcia also said “  the failure of the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass an amendment that would have strengthened family immigration by considering extreme hardships will have a devastating effect on immigrant communities across the country, including Filipinos.”

Garcia promised that; “  We will continue to mobilize to ensure that the path to family reunification remains open and does not exclude our brothers, sisters, and adult married children.”

The final roll call vote on Hirono 10:

The AYES were Sens. Hirono, Blumenthal, Coons, Franken, Klobuchar, Leahy and Whitehouse.

The NAYS were Sens. Cornyn, Cruz, Durbin, Feinstein, Flake, Graham, Grassley, Hatch, Lee, Sessions and Schumer.

For more information about jfav please call (213)241-0995 or email atunrecognizedvets@yahoo.com

First Joint Fellowship of the Knights of Rizal, May 19 , A Resounding Success

Knights of Rizal (KOR)-HFT

Media Release

May 21, 2013

First Joint Fellowship of the Knights of Rizal, May 19 ,  A  Resounding Success

Los Angeles—The first  ever  joint Fellowship of three different chapters of the Knights of Rizal (KOR) was successfully held at the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) last Sunday, May 19, 2013.

The historic affair was graced by Grand Knight Dr. Jose David Lapuz from the Philippines and Deputy Consul Daniel Espiritu of the Philippine Consulate General of Los Angeles. Both were the guests of honor and speakers.

Independence Day Grand Parade in June 8

Daniel Espiritu in his speech praised the growth of the Knights of Rizal since the last visit of Dr. Lapuz in 2008.  “ From one chapter in Los Angeles, the group grew to three more chapter, the latest is the  KOR Historic Filipinotown  based here in FACLA and the KOR California” , Espiritu said.

Espiritu also commended the plan of the KOR to recruit more women and form the KOR Ladies Auxillaries in the future.

Deputy Consul Espiritu also related the preparations for the 115th Independence Day and the Grand Parade to be held in Historic Filipinotown on June 8. “There are at least more than 50 groups from regional to town organizations who have committed to participate in the said event.” He added.

He also pointed out the FACLA and the Consulate collaboration for the parade and festival for the 115th Philippine Independence Day celebrations in Southern California.

Learn from Rizal

FACLA president Austin Baul Jr. opened the fellowship by thanking the guests of honor and pledging FACLA’  support to the Knights of Rizal’s activities especially the KOR-Historic Filipinotown is based in FACLA.

Meanwhile , Dr. Lapuz extolled the virtues of the national hero Dr. Rizal and adviced the group to be like Rizal; “Study, study and study. Rizal already knew Spanish but he still got a tutor to teach him Spanish in Madrid”, Lapuz intimated.

The affair was closed by a sumptuous meal prepared by FACLA after the investiture ceremonies on new members presided by Grand Knight Tony Berango and Dr. Lapuz, the guest of honor.

For more information on the Knights of Rizal (KOR) please call (213)484-1527 or email at pilipinokami76@yahoo.com