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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Filipino vet benefits: shameful foot-dragging

Fifty-seven years after the United States broke its promise to Filipino soldiers fighting under the Stars and Stripes, President Bush has signed into law what amounts to partial amends.

Many Filipinos, then citizens of a U.S. colony, fought side by side with American troops in World War II, buoyed by a pledge of full benefits made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941.

The veterans, many of them survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and now in their 70s and 80s, got a boost this year as Bush sought to reward the Philippines for its cooperativeness in the war on terrorism.

The measure signed last week, while symbolically important, remains a comparative drop in the bucket.

Another 21,000 Filipino veterans living in the Philippines still receive little or none of what they deserve.

Cynics might suspect Congress of cruelly outwaiting their life expectancy. This view gains a certain amount of currency when you consider that some 200,000 Filipinos had fought under the American flag by the time Congress reneged on Roosevelt's promise, in 1946.

The delay in meeting these obligations is shameful.