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10 April 2014

WASHINGTON, DC— Acts of courage and sacrifice by Filipino soldiers during World War II have not been and should not be forgotten.

This was the gist of the remarks delivered by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in rites commemorating the Araw ng Kagitingan on 9 April, the 72nd anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, at the National World War II Memorial and at the Philippine Embassy.

“We have always studied Bataan Day from the point of view of a student. We feel detached from something that happened before we were born. Seeing the veterans today made that link a living reality,” said Lacierda, who led Embassy officials in the wreath-laying at the Memorial.

“This is the generation that gave up the best years of their lives for the country. They sacrificed their lives. As Filipinos, we seem to forget so fast,” Lacierda said in remarks he gave at the Embassy.

Filipino veterans, some of who were part of the Bataan Death March, family members of deceased veterans and members of the Filipino-American community gathered at the World War II Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony to honor Filipino soldiers who perished during the war.

Jesse Baltazar, a veteran who survived the Death March, recalled his experience and the importance of remembering what our troops went through as well as giving them proper benefits for their service.

“When the war broke out, the Philippine Commonwealth was under the United States government. Thus, the Philippine Army became part of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East,” Baltazar said, adding that over 100,000 Filipinos fought under the US and suffered “suffered brutal and inhumane treatment from the Japanese.”

“We served as courageously as their American counterparts in the Pacific War. Without the assistance of Philippine troops, the liberation of the Philippines would not have lasted longer than it had,” he said.  “There is no doubt that Filipino veterans are entitled to the same benefits received by Americans who fought in the war.”

Although Filipino veterans are yet to receive proper remuneration and full benefits from the US government, some members of US Congress are pushing for legislature that will ensure Americans do not forget that the Philippines played an important role as an ally during the war.

Lt. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Veterans Affairs Office at the Embassy, said Democrat Representative Colleen Hanabusa, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced House Resolution 110, which directs the Secretary of the Army to issue certificates of service to veterans who have valid claims, streamlining the process to receive benefits.

The Hawaii congresswoman is also pushing for House Resolution 111, which awards these veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal.

In a statement, Hanabusa said that Americans must not forget that Filipinos fought side by side with US troops. She hopes HR 110 and 111 will help repay the debt US has towards the Philippines.

“When the United States needed allies in combat, the people of the Philippines did not hesitate to fight alongside our troops. We as a nation must never forget that. These Filipino soldiers were promised the same benefits and status as their American counterparts, and it is a travesty that the US has yet to pay this debt,” said Hanabusa

Hanabusa has also teamed up with Republican Sen. Dean Heller from Nevada to introduce the Filipino Veterans Promise Act, which authorizes the Department of Defense to establish an appeals process for Filipino veterans who have not been able to have their military service verified by the US.

The bill also gives veterans the opportunity to have their records examined and verified by military historians so they can receive benefits. ###

10 April 2014

Wreath laying. Members of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache and officers of the Philippine Embassy lead the wreath laying ceremony for Filipino veterans in the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. They were joined by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. (Embassy Photo by Majalya Fernando)

10 April 2014

Remembering our troops. Veterans and their family members, along with some widows of deceased veterans, commemorate Araw ng Kagitingan together with members of the Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attache. (Embassy Photo by Majalya Fernando)

10 April 2014

Standing up for the country. A veteran protests China's claim in the West Philippine Sea. A global day of prayer for peace in the Scarborough Shoal is scheduled for 21 August 2014. (Embassy Photo by Elmer G. Cato)


10 April 2014

Remembering our troops. General Delfin Lorenzana, head of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine Embassy, addresses the veterans and guests present in the Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration at the Philippine Embassy. On the left side of the photo is the original American flag carried by Douglas McArthur in Corregidor. (Embassy Photo by Majalya Fernando)