Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Politics

He Won a 63-Year Fight for Justice

Just this year, Congress finally passed a bill awarding veterans benefits to Alberto Bacani and other Filipinos who fought in World War II.

Why did it take so long for Filipino veterans to receive benefits? Originally, the U.S. government promised Filipinos who fought in World War II the same benefits as U.S. citizens. But President Truman issued a rescission order in 1946. It became a bitter issue for us.

What did you do about it? For many years, a group of us would try to convince members of Congress to help. Many said yes, but when it came to the actual voting, some were absent, didn't vote or said they needed more time.

What made the difference? Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka pushed and pushed to find support. They eventually received it from key people, including former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. The benefits were included in the stimulus bill.

What did you get from this bill? On April 8, I was presented with a check at the Philippine Embassy. Because I'm now a U.S. citizen, I received $15,000. Veterans who are citizens of the Philippines are due to receive the equivalent of $9,000.

Advertisement

Do you think that's fair? It's a satisfactory amount considering the government is in debt and we're all tightening our belts now. But it's not the amount that matters. It's the recognition of what we did in the service of the United States for the sake of democracy.

How did you get involved in the fighting? The Philippines was still a U.S. commonwealth. I was in the reserve army and answered a call to duty from President Roosevelt.

How did you serve? I was an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. My battalion was supposed to delay the advance of the Japanese. But we were surrounded by Japanese soldiers, and eventually about 60 of us were captured.

How were you treated? We were hog-tied and made to sit along the highway the whole day with two machine guns mounted in front of us about 30 yards away. We were imprisoned for ten days and interrogated every day. They released us because we were not professional soldiers. We were all either teachers or government employees.