By JOSE L. CUISIA JR.
Special to the Saipan Tribune
Editor's Note: The following is the statement of Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia Jr. on the occasion of the 71st anniversary of the military order of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt placing the Philippine Commonwealth Army under the U.S. Army.
Under and by virtue of the authority vested in me . as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, I hereby call and order into the service of the armed forces of the United States for the period of the existing emergency. all of the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, July 26, 1941
With these words and as war clouds loomed in the Pacific, members of the Philippine Commonwealth forces were conscripted into the service of the U.S. Armed Forces. Hundreds of thousands faithfully followed President Roosevelt's order and fought under the command of General MacArthur in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far Eeast and in guerilla units organized and commanded by U.S. Army Officers. A day later on July 27 Gen. MacArthur issued General Order Number 1 assuming command of all U.S. forces in the Far East including all forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
On Dec. 28, 1941, twenty days after the Pacific war started, President Roosevelt exhorted the Filipinos with these words: In this great struggle of the Pacific the loyal Americans of the Philippine Islands are called upon to play a crucial role. I count on every Philippine man, woman, and child to do his duty. We will do ours.
Three months of hostilities following the attack by Japanese forces in Dec. 8, 1941, thousands were killed, wounded, and subjected to the brutal Death March alongside their American comrades. It is estimated that about one million Filipinos died, mostly non-combatants, in the three years of Japanese occupation.
After the war, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 79-301 (Rescission Act of 1946) that stripped Filipino veterans benefits due them for their military service during the war. Despite objections by the Philippine government and the veterans the law remained.
Through the years the U.S. government had given small and piecemeal benefits to the Filipino veterans but they continue to fight and hope for the restoration of the recognition and benefits that the Rescission Act of 1946 had removed. They have been waging this campaign for 66 years. Their latest struggle is to get certification from the National Personnel Records Center to avail of the one-time lump sum under the Filipino Veterans Compensation Fund.
As we commemorate the 71st anniversary of the military order of President Roosevelt let us remember these gallant soldiers who unselfishly heeded the call to military service doing their job to the best of their abilities. They did their duties but the promise made to them went unfulfilled.