In remembering Bataan Day, veterans decry inaction on equity claims

Celestino Almeda  (center ) with fellow veterans

Celestino Almeda (center ) with fellow veterans

On the anniversary of the Bataan Day of Valor, Filipino American veterans criticized the Obama Administration’s alleged inaction in addressing the U.S. Army’s denial of certification of military service for thousands of their comrades.

“We have waited and waited for action from President Obama. It has been six months since Obama formed his Interagency Working Group to solve our Filipino veterans’ recognition problems. It seems they are not working together. Nothing has happened,” said Celestino Almeda, 95, spokesman of Washington-based American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV).

To mark the 71st anniversary of the Bataan Day of Valor in 1942, the veterans joined an afternoon wreath-laying ceremony at the Bataan-Corregidor fountain in the World War II National Memorial. They were accompanied by Philippine Embassy officials and supporters from the community.

In the past three years, the veterans’ coalition has been requesting Obama, as the commander-in-chief, to issue an executive order to the U.S. Army to update their policies that unfairly excluded from their official 1948 roster the names of thousands of Filipino veterans who “honorably served” in the U.S. Army Forces in Far East (USAFFE).

More than 240,000 Philippine Commonwealth Army soldiers and guerrillas fought under American officers after they were drafted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his Military Order of July 26, 1941. More than 20,000 Filipino veterans’ claims for service certification have been rejected by the U.S. Army over the past three years, said ACFV.

The coalition is seeking congressional hearings on these bills to persuade the White House and the U.S. Army to solve the issue. Issuance of 20,000 immigration visas to the adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizen Filipino WWII veterans under their reunification bill may depend upon U.S. Army certification of their service, according to Franco Arcebal, 89, ACFV vice president for membership.

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