Archive for the ‘veterans’ Category

More than 60 Years After World War II: Filipina Comfort Women Demand Justice, Reject Arroyo’s Cha-cha

August 21, 2008

Sixty-three years after the Second World War ended, the Japanese Imperial Army’s “comfort women” are still fighting for justice despite their age.

Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

Sixty-three years after the Second World War ended, the Japanese Imperial Army’s “comfort women” are still fighting for justice despite their age. They are reiterating their demand for the Japanese government to recognize its atrocities and to give the victims not only financial assistance.  More importantly, they are asking the Japanese government to publicly apologize to the women who are still being haunted by their horrible past in order to restore their dignity.

Last Aug. 15, members of Lila Filipina and GABRIELA rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila to commemorate –  and remind the Japanese government of – the hostilities of the “imperialist” war, which claimed not only lives and the livelihood of the Filipino people during that time, but also the dignity of women, most of whom were very young then.

“The war may have ended more than half a century ago, but for many of the lolas (grandmothers), wartime is no different from so-called peacetime. They may have been violated and abused during the war, but until now they are being victimized by Japan’s unchanging stance and denial of justice,” said Retchilda Extremadura, Executive Director of Lila Pilipina, an organization of survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery and advocates of justice for women victims of foreign military sexual violence.

This author, once interviewed a survivor of the comfort women system four years ago and can still recall the sadness of that lola, who was raped almost nightly by soldiers from the Japanese imperial army. She was 14 then.

Extremadura is saddened for the said Philippine government’s accession by virtue of its continuing silence on the issue. She said, “It is very unfortunate that while other countries are backing the fight of the lolas, our very own government is caught with nary an observance of its responsibility to exercise political will in urging the Japanese government to finally recognize the violations it committed during World War II (WW2).”

The U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands, as well as the European Union, have already passed resolutions supporting the demands of Asian comfort women for justice. Even the Japanese Diet and the city councils of Takarazuka and Kiyose in Japan have also issued their support for the comfort women, but the Philippine government remains mum on the issue, said Extremadura.

From more than 170, the survivors’ numbers have been reduced to only 57.

“The Arroyo government has misplaced priorities on when and where to flex its political muscle. There is already a draft resolution filed in the Lower House calling for the Japanese government to formally apologize and accept responsibility over the comfort women case, but this has been shelved since April,” says Joms Salvador, GABRIELA’s spokesperson, in reference to House Resolution No. 124 filed by Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Reps. Liza Largoza-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

“It is utterly vile that instead of pushing Congress to immediately pass the resolution, the Arroyo administration would rather train its dogs on how to secure benefits for Arroyo’s own selfish interests by pushing for Charter change,” Salvador added.

No to another generation of comfort women

Since Japan did not abandon its militarist policies after the end of WWII and has regained its pre-war eminence in world politics, GABRIELA members fear that the resurgence of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance, which promotes foreign intervention, wars of aggression, and permanent military presence in foreign lands will be spawning another generation of comfort women.

“The military’s culture of sexism and violence that victimized the lolas continues to this day. Women are especially vulnerable to abuse during times of actual war and even with the mere presence of the military,” Salvador further said.

She cited as an example the case of the 19-year old “Hazel,” the Filipina who has been raped by a US soldier in Okinawa in February this year. Japanese prosecutors dropped the case in May.

Salvador said the Philippine government has not raised any diplomatic protest against the dropping of the case.

“Like in the case of the lolas, the Philippine government also wavers in its stance to seek justice for ‘Hazel,” she stressed.

“By continuing to turn a blind eye to the violence committed against its women by foreign troops, whether recent or in the past and by perpetuating its culture of subservience to foreign superpowers such as Japan and the US, the Philippine government serves as an accomplice to the sexual abuse of Filipinas everywhere,” Salvador said. Bulatlat

Asec asks war vets to support VAT

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Office of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Jesus Terry F. Adevoso, who is in town Friday for the 63rd Anniversary of Benguet Liberation, urged war veterans and their respective families to take a position on the proposal to remove Value Added Tax (VAT) and Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT).

AGED, ALIVE AND KICKING. Benguet veterans, mostly in their eighties, flash wide smiles as Gov. Nestor Fongwan greeted them saying a provincial resolution grants them, or their kin, burial benefits. The vets celebrated the 63rd year of the province’s liberation on August 15. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

Adevoso quipped the P7 billion paid in pension arrears to war vets and their widows came from the taxes added on the cost of most consumer products.

“Saan kukuha ang gobyerno ng ipambabayad sa mga utang nito sa inyo kung aalisin natin ang mga buwis na iyan?” (Where will government get funds to pay its arrears to you if we remove these taxes) Adevoso asked the audience.

He said, besides veterans pension, other social services are funded from the collections from VAT and E-VAT, insinuating that its lifting as various sectors clamor is impractical.

Adevoso added he is apprehensive the country’s lawmakers might not be able to see fund sources for the veterans’ monetary claims.

Ano pa kaya ang pagkukunan ng gobyerno ng pondo kundi sa mga buwis?” (Where else will government get funds but from taxes) he said. He warned that a reduction in taxes would affect the veterans’ benefits.

In her State of the Nation Address, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo admitted VAT kept her administration responding to the needs of the poor. “Magiging kawawa ang mahihirap kapag inalis natin ang VAT (The poor will be miserable if we removed VAT) she said.

Earlier Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at operators nationwide (Piston) of the transport sector was clamoring for the removal of VAT from petroleum products to ease the spiraling rise in the prices of crude oil, gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which rose by about 20 times since January this year.

Other groups such as the urban poor and student groups Organisayon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (ORNUS) and Anakbayan, also raised the scrapping of the VAT on all consumer items because they said it raises the prices of many food items. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

War vets, kin unhappy over US pension package

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Announcements of viable financial gains from the impending passing of a US veterans equity law came as a good-news-bad-news for almost a thousand local veterans and their dependents, most find it unfair and absurd.

Benguet veterans, their wives or widows, sons, daughters and grandchildren gathered at the Ben Palispis Hall here Friday to remember their (kin’s) travails for Benguet’s liberation from the Japanese imperial forces.

First the good news

A bill that also provides for Filipino World War II (WWII) veterans to receive a total annual equity veterans affairs (VA) pension of roughly some $100 million, the bill passed the US Senate with an overwhelming 96:1 in April this year.

Filipino WWII veterans have something to look up to with the passing of the US Senate of the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, announced Assistant Secretary Jesus Terry F. Adevoso of Malacañang’s Veterans Affairs Office.

Not so much of a good news, the US congress is now on recess before the House of Representatives was able to put the bill to a vote. Congress resumes in September and it is likely that the voting on the bill would take place October, an optimistic Adevoso announced.

Another good news is that more than 300 lawmakers, 230 Democrats and 81 Republicans, are reportedly in favor of passing the equity bill, according to Adevoso. He said the lower house adopted the Senate version that there would be no more need for a bicameral conference to unite the lawmakers.

Under the said bill, a Filipino veteran would receive at least an annual $3,600 (P162,000 at P45:$1) or $300 (13,500) in monthly pensions. In the case of veterans still living with a spouse, the yearly pension would be $4,500 (P202,500) or $375 (P16,875) monthly, according to Adevoso.

At present the vets get a measly P60,000 ($1,335) a year or P5,000 ($111) a month.

Now, the bad news

As Adevoso went on to tell his expectant audience that the US government would be getting the funds from savings from the US veterans disability pension, the crowd almost hold its breath, apparently waiting for another bad, or worse, news.

“It is a problem for the US government to solve,” Adevoso said, his audience not dropping an eyelash. US citizens were protesting why their government would be giving their money to people not living in their country and are not citizens of that country, he said.

The worse news, however, came out when Adevoso announced that widows are not entitled to the benefits, unless their veteran husbands are still alive at the time the pension package takes effect.

“It is unfair,” said Prospera Lee, in her 70’s, twice widowed by two war veterans. Lee also raised questions on the pension systems in the Philippines. She said what she is receiving is way below the needed amount for a veteran to live a decent life.

Filipino veterans number about 45,000, according to the roster made by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO). The US, however, lists only about 15,000, according to Adevoso.

“Some 30,000 will not receive anything. This is another form of discrimination and inequality,” he said.

Tired going after support

Another widow in her 70’s, Rosalind Bolude whose husband died in 1945 said she is tired going after government support to her and her son.

“I already have five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I am too old to follow up my claims,” Bolude said.

Congressmen Bob Filner (Democrat) and Darrel Issa (Republican) both from California, sponsored the equity bill, according to Adevoso. Some 52% of all WWII veterans living in the US are in California.

US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) Benguet District Commander Robert Bellasi said he is hopeful the US congress would pass the bill, especially it would only be two months before the elections. He is also Baguio-Benguet Chapter commander of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

While Adevoso kept saying the government would do its best to alleviate the plight of war heroes, he got a battery of questions and complaints from veterans and widows who asserted an open forum long after the commemorative program was adjourned. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)