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Tortured in war, discriminated in America
Franco Arcebal testifies at House Veterans Committee, Feb. 15, 2007

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Franco Arcebal, 83, a former Philippine guerrilla intelligence officer in WWII, testifies before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the Filipino Veterans Equity bill on February 15, 2007. Arcebal, vice-president of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, protested the 1946 Rescission Act that deprived him and his comrades of their U.S. veteran status and benefits. Alma Kern (right), chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, listens. (E. Lachica photos)
February 15, 2007

Honorable Chairman & Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs,

   Good morning. My name is Franco Arcebal, a Filipino World War II veteran, and the vice-president for membership of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc. Thank you for including in this panel.

   Our nonprofit non-partisan advocacy organization has more than 4,000 individual members in the U.S..

   I am now 83-years-old and a retired sales executive. I reside in Los Angeles.

Thank you for holding this early hearing on the Equity bill H.R. 760 for Filipino World War II veterans.

   Never in the history of our long quest for full recognition has a hearing been scheduled within two weeks after its introduction.

   We owe this to the Honorable Bob FILNER, our undaunted and tireless champion in the House of Representatives. He and I were arrested along with 12

of my comrades for civil disobedience when we chained ourselves in front of the White House in July 1997.

   Sadly, we were unable to convince the Clinton Administration to support our Equity bill.

   I am honored to present the APPEAL of my comrades. Like all my comrades, each of us has a personal story to tell. I’ll cite my brief story.

   During World War II, I was a guerrilla intelligence

officer. I was caught and severely tortured by Japanese soldiers as a spy. I was sentenced for decapitation.  Luckily for me, during a rainstorm at night, I was able to escape.

   In 1987, I became a new U.S. permanent resident. At that time, I had a painful dental problem, I sought treatment at the Los Angeles VA clinic.

   I was terribly shocked when I was told my service in the U.S. Army Forces, was by law, DEEMED NOT “ACTIVE SERVICE” for the purposes of VA benefits.

   I concluded that the United States whom I served loyally and risked my life, did me an injustice. I felt DISCRIMINATED against. This DENIAL of my benefits was a result of the Rescission Act of February 18, 1946 – sixty years ago. This law was enacted over the objections of President Harry Truman.

    Before this law, Filipino veterans were recognized as American veterans and entitled to benefits.

   Today, I expect many credible testimonies will be presented. I join this panel because of my duty to speak on behalf of my comrades who are elderly, disabled and poor.

restore FULL U.S. Government recognition and win equitable V.A. benefits.

   We believe that by passing the “Filipino Veterans Equity Act,” or the realistic bills of our sponsors, we can finally overcome the discriminatory effects of the “Rescission Act.”

   We estimate that 4,000 Filipino veterans in the U.S. 10,000 in the Philippines may benefit if this bill is passed.

   Mr. Chairman, These are my three REQUESTS to your COMMITTEE

   FIRST:  PASS the authorizing language of the EQUITY BILL, H.R. 760 - with strong BI-PARTISAN support from your Committee.

   SECOND:  OBTAIN an estimated budget item of AT LEAST $18 MILLION from the Appropriation Committees with the support of President Bush and VA Secretary Nicholson, that provides an equitable VA MONTHLY pension of at least $200 for us low-income veterans.

   THIRD:  CREATE a TASK FORCE of representatives from the HVA Committee, the VA Secretary, the Philippine Ambassador and the leaders of key veteran groups.

   The TASK FORCE should determine within 45 days the accurate number of living Filipino WWII veterans in the U.S. and in the Philippines, ASSESS their economic and health needs and recommend a realistic BUDGET.

   We must SOLVE this historical travesty NOW. Let me close by quoting President Truman on February 20, 1946 when he objected to the “Rescission Act, “ “I consider it a moral OBLIGATION of the United States to look after the welfare of the Filipino veterans.”

   Thank you. I will be glad to ANSWER questions.

WWII Memorial dedication May 27, 2004 Washington DC