The Filipino Veterans Movement
"I, __[Name]__, do solemnly swear...that I will bear true faith and
allegiance...to the United States of America...that I will serve them honestly
and faithfully...against all their enemies whomsoever...and I will obey the
orders...of the President of the United States...And the orders of the officers
appointed over me...according to the rules and Articles of War."
With this pledge, approximately 250,000 Filipino men joined the U.S. Armed
Forces in the months before and the days just after the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. For the next several years, they would share the fate of their
American counterparts on the battlefield, in prisoner of war camps, and
throughout the countryside as part of the guerrilla resistance. Accordingly,
Washington promised them the same health and pension benefits as their American
brothers. Even after the war, in October of 1945, Gen. Omar Bradley, then
Administrator of the Veterans Administration, reaffirmed that they were to be
treated like any other American veterans.
But on February 18, 1946, the Congress passed and President Truman signed
Public Law 70-301, known as the Rescission Act of 1946. It said that the
service of Filipinos "shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the
military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or
any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits."
Ever since, Filipino veterans and others appalled by this injustice have
lobbied without success for a reversal of the Rescission Act. Mr. Ingles,
whose sacrifices are vividly described above, gave voice to their frustration
in his interview:
Interviewer: And do think most Filipinos were grateful that MacArthur
Gustavo Ingles: Well, in the case of people of my age, we were grateful
to that certain extent that he came back, but the succeeding people who
governed the States forgot about the promises made by Roosevelt when he
encouraged Filipinos to fight for the Americans, and [about] this we feel very
bitter. In fact, even myself, because of what happened to us, I never
received any pension from the U.S. Government as a soldier. What I am
receiving now is the pension from the Philippine government, and sometimes this
is still forgotten because there is no money in the coffers. This promise was
made, in fact even before I went to the States as a student in Fort Benning,
[when] war was still going on in 1945, but [the] surrender of Japan was
affected sometime in September.
So there was already peacetime ...[plans] to reconstruct the Philippines, and
this was true up to the end of 1945. But [in] 1946, some time in February, the
American Congress, because of the expenses it is supposed to receive or give
out to the Filipino veterans, put a rider in the veterans code, they noted what
they call the Rescission Act, denying all benefits except for those who died or
were wounded during the war. And up to now we, as veterans, have not received
anything -- well, maybe medical treatment from the Old Veterans Memorial
Hospital, but that was also cut off already by the U.S. Government.
Today, fewer than 70,000 Filipino veterans are still alive, and that number
is rapidly falling as even the youngest of them are approaching eighty. In
recent years, their cause has been taken up by Rep. Bob Filner (D-California),
who has introduced a bill in Congress which would grant them full benefits.
But equally, perhaps even more important to these men is that their service be
recognized and the government admit it made a terrible mistake. Hunger
strikes, protests in front of the White House, and extensive lobbying have yet
to prevail over bureaucratic inertia, fiscal restraint, and plain
Their case was probably made most clearly back in 1946, before their
sacrifice had been relegated to a distant memory. "There can be no question,"
said a former World War I artillery captain named Harry Truman, "but that the
Philippine veteran is entitled to benefits bearing a reasonable relation to
those received by the American veteran, with whom he fought side by