Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Gov't owes vets P24B

A senator has called on the Philippine and United States governments to work for the compensation of Filipino war veterans, especially those who fought during World War II.

"Let us not forget those who died. But let us also not forget our veterans who are still alive," Sen. Richard Gordon said in a speech during rites commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Romblon from Japanese occupation.

Gordon said Filipino veterans in the US "have gotten their fair share" in terms of benefits and compensation but he said veterans in the Philippines "have gotten nothing so far."

He said non-payment could have been caused by too many claimants who
applied for compensation and benefits.

"But an effort must be made by both the Philippines and the US to find out the legitimate ones and they should not hide behind the fact that too many people are applying. They must find those who really died and served this country during that fateful war," said Gordon.

P24B in debt

Gordon said the Philippine government owes all veterans, including those who fought in World War II, around P24 billion in compensation as mandated by law.

"It is not right to say we have no money. We must find that money to pay for the veterans," the senator said.

In an interview with reporters, the senator said the Philippines would have difficulty pushing for compensation from the US if it cannot pay the veterans.

Gordon's call was cheered by around 800 veterans and their families who attended the commemoration at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

"We have long been hoping that our P5,000 monthly pension would be increased," said Rafael Sobremisana, 86, from Barangay Baybay Sur, Miag-ao town in Iloilo. He fought on the island of Guimaras and in Jaro District during the war.

Still alive

There are around 2,000 veterans still alive in Panay, Romblon and Guimaras, said Rodolfo Lataquin, president of the 6th Military District World War II Veterans Association, Inc.

He said at least 18,000 joined the resistance movement against the Japanese occupation on these islands.

The ceremony was attended by defense attaches of the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.


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