Wake Up, Philippines!

US envoy tells vets: We’re coming to you

Posted in Uncategorized by Erineus on February 24, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—US Ambassador Kristie Kenney appealed to Filipino World War II veterans entitled to the recently approved benefits from Washington to limit their entourage of family members when filing their claims, citing overcrowding at the processing desks.

And to veterans too old and weak to personally file their claims, Kenney said they would not have to leave town because “we will find you and come to you.”

“If you are not well, don’t risk your life coming to us,” Kenney told reporters in Malacañang on Monday, her message addressed to the estimated 18,000 surviving Filipino veterans covered by the $198-million lump sum payment from the US government.

The package—contained in the US economic stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama on February 18—allots $9,000 (P435,000) each for eligible Filipino veterans residing outside of the US. The veterans waited 63 years for such benefits.

Most of the veterans are now in their 80s and 90s, and are said to be dying at the rate of 10 a day.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) has received around 2,000 claims since the filing period started Thursday last week. The agency will accept applications up to February 18, 2010.

Kenney, however, reported on Monday a “very small problem we’re having right now at the embassy is a lot of people are bringing a great many of their family with them and we’re running out of space.”

“I know many people are older and they need a family member with them (but) it’s probably best if you don’t bring the whole family,” she said.

Also at the Palace, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office (PVAO), which has been assisting its US counterpart in receiving applications and locating bed-ridden veterans, to set up “fast-track” centers for pensioners based in the provinces.

“We look forward to the speedy implementation of the provisions for Filipino veterans in the stimulus bill,” Arroyo said in a program celebrating the approval of the lump sum package. “We will continue working with the US government in ensuring that benefits and recognition are given to our veterans.”

Arroyo reminded veterans that the coming lump sum was “in addition to the present benefits they’re already getting, not in replacement of.”

“In other words, in addition to the recognition of their military service and the lump sum payments that are forthcoming, those who enjoy the supplementary security income will be able to continue with that benefit,” the President explained.

Kenney said the USDVA would also be sending teams of four to five people to 15 application centers around the country. More centers would be set up depending on the need, the diplomat said.

“Our teams are ready to work as long as they need to and to go to as many places as we need to,” she said. “We will come to where you are throughout the country, so don’t worry about having to come to Manila or the embassy personally. We’ll find you.”

Kenney also warned the aging beneficiaries against “fixers” who, for a fee, would offer to help them with the paperwork. Less than a week since the claim period began, she said, some veterans with whom she had spoken to at the embassy already reported being approached by suspected fixers.

“You don’t need any help. Come on in. It’s absolutely free,” she assured the veterans. “(They) are senior citizens. They deserve our best care. I don’t want them to be taken advantage of.”

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:21:00 02/23/2009

Inouye comes to Filipino vets’ rescue

Posted in Foreign Affairs, international relations, Veterans Affairs, Wars by Erineus on February 20, 2009

A number of media commentators went to town criticizing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for making a “useless trip” to the United States after the Davos Conference in Switzerland, as she didn’t get to meet President Obama, contrary to speculations. If there was a big letdown here about that non-meeting, it was the fault of Ms Arroyo’s staff, for the US trip was made to center on the supposed meeting, so that when it failed to materialize, due perhaps to Obama’s being so preoccupied with the economic stimulus package that was then still in limbo in the US Congress, the trip did seem useless. But it turns out that there were, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Anding Roces, a number of things to crow about. For instance, the media only later learned that President Arroyo played an important role in securing the long-awaited benefits due to Filipino World War II veterans.

Palace sources said Ms Arroyo, who was then attending the Davos Conference, was invited by the US Congress to the National Prayer Breakfast annually held in Washington DC. She was assigned a seat beside Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who later arranged for her to meet with key legislators on Capitol Hill, among them Sen. John Kerry, chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee, and the chair of that committee’s East Asia subcommittee, Sen. James Webb, and Ohio Rep. Steve Austria, the first Filipino-American to win a legislative seat on Capitol Hill. Palace sources said Ms Arroyo took advantage of her meetings with key legislators for one specific agenda: to push for the inclusion of the veterans’ benefits in the economic stimulus package recently passed by the US Congress.

* * *

In fact, on the day of President Arroyo’s visit, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a staunch advocate of Filipino war veterans, stood up on the Senate floor to sponsor an amendment to the economic stimulus package bill that would grant Filipino veterans befits totaling $198 million. Some of Inouye’s colleagues tried to block the amendment, preferring to corner the sums for their own needy constituents, but the crusty, old, physically challenged Hawaii lawmaker, a distinguished war veteran himself, stood his ground.

Over the years, Inouye has developed a solid friendship with Filipino leaders, with Ms Arroyo hosting various receptions in Malacañang during his visits. At the 100th anniversary celebration in Honolulu in 2006 of the arrival of Filipino plantation workers in Hawaii, Ms Arroyo and Inouye once again renewed their friendship.

On Capitol Hill, Ms Arroyo lobbied hard for inclusion of the benefits to Filipino war veterans in the Obama stimulus package, and found a dependable ally in Inouye.

The amendment paved the way for the realization of the dream harbored by Filipino veterans (their ranks now decimated by death, age and disease) for more than half a century: to be compensated for their heroism during the days of their youth. The benefits that will accrue to Filipino veterans will not only be in recognition of the sacrifices of those still living, albeit sickly and old but also in honor of the memory of their fallen comrades who never tasted the glory of recognition or the well-deserved material compensation.

* * *

In another part of the US at that time, former House speaker Jose de Venecia addressed the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, and the Universal Peace Federation, proposing in well-received speeches that President Obama recognize a “Global Inter-Faith Summit” in the US, inasmuch as all the great religions of the world — Christianity, Catholicism, Protestantism, the Evangelicals, Islam (Sunnis and Shiites), Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Shintoism and Sikkhism — are represented in that nation in great numbers. They could, De Venecia argued, help bring about global and regional peace, isolate extremists and strengthen moderates, “and regain the high moral ground for America.”

It will be recalled that De Venecia successfully pushed the Inter-Religious Dialogues in 2006, first with President George W. Bush and then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which was later affirmed by the United Nations in a resolution. By a twist of events, he found his advocacy being tested soon. Late last year, the former speaker was in Cambodia to receive an honorary doctorate degree for international relations from the University of Cambodia, when a pocket border war exploded between Thai and Cambodian troops over a historic Buddhist temple in an area being claimed by both countries.

Speaking with Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and his deputy, Soc An, De Venecia pointed out that the border dispute was a “Buddhist problem” that could be quietly solved not by governments but by representatives of the Thai and Cambodian kings, who are both Buddhists and much-loved by their peoples, and the disputed ancient place of worship has been a Buddhist temple through the centuries. Hun Sen and Soc An said there was no need for Asean intervention, as some worried neighbors in the region had proposed, and the conflict quietly subsided. This little episode didn’t make headlines, but it demonstrates that there’s no substitute for meaningful diplomacy.

* * *

My brother Danny Olivares received a request from his Ateneo de Manila University classmate, Noel Trinidad, to help disseminate to the legion of friends of his brother, internationally renowned cartoonist Corky Trinidad, that the latter recently passed away after a lingering illness in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he had been a longtime resident. Noel said Corky had lived a “very full and meaningful 69 years on earth” adding, “We are proud of his achievements but even prouder of how he lived his life.”

Corky was the son of Lina Flor, famed columnist and creator of the highly popular “Gulong ng Palad” drama series, and Koko Trinidad, acknowledged as the father of radio broadcasting in the Philippines. The Honolulu Star Bulletin, where Corky did editorial cartooning, paid a glowing tribute to him, which I will reprint here. Our condolences to the Trinidad family.

Political Tidbits
By Belinda Olivares-Cunanan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 02/17/2009

63rd Anniversary of the Battle for Manila February 3, 1945-March 3, 1945

Posted in Manila, Wars by Erineus on February 3, 2009

WORLD War II broke out in the Pacific on December 7, 1941. A few days later, Japanese planes attacked the Philippines and the other Allied countries in the Pacific. On January 2, 1942, the Japanese occupied Manila and began three years of harsh existence for the Filipino people.

The Battle of the Coral Sea in May 4-8, 1942, began the Allied reconquest of the Philippines. Landing in Leyte in October 20, 1944, followed. On February 3, 1945, the Battle for Manila began. When the battle ended on March 3, 1945, Manila, the “Gem of the Pearl of the Orient,’’ was destroyed; ten percent of its one million population were dead.

Personal accounts by those who survived the carnage describe the pathos and pain that accompanied the death and destruction of the city. “We live from moment to moment,’’ wrote one survivor. “There is nothing to hope for, nothing to comfort us. Many of the dead remain unburied.’’

The Filipino people lost countless cultural and historical treasures. All government buildings, educational institutions, convents and churches, as well as their priceless treasures were destroyed. The destruction of Manila was one of the greatest tragedies of World War II. Manila was the “Warsaw, Stalingrad, and Nanking of World War II in the Pacific.’’

The Memorare Manila Monument at Plaza Santa Isabel (also known as Plaza Sinampalukan) at General Luna and Anda Streets in Intramuros, Manila, was erected on February 18, 1995, as a memorial to all those who perished in the Battle for Manila.

Author: Editorial
Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/OPED20090203147180.html