By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
Special to Philippines Today
WASHINGTON D.C. (jGLi) – It’s very rare that a Filipino World War II veteran gets a tribute before the U.S. Congress.
Rarer still when the same U.S. Congressman would pay a second tribute to another Filvet in just a span of more than a year.
And rarer still if the acclaim will come from a Republican.
Rep. Joseph J. Heck [NV-3] on Thursday (March 8) rose on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to pay tribute for 1:53 minutes on the passing of Filipino World War II veteran Augusto R. Oppus, who died of stroke at the age of 87 last March 5th.
Mr. Heck, a member of the Armed Services committee, said, “I come to the floor today saddened by the news of the passing of World War II veteran and Las Vegas [Nevada] resident, Augusto Oppus.
“He was part of a community of denied Filipino veterans. Born on Aug. 28, 1924, Mr. Oppus entered the U.S. military service in March 1945 and trained as a military police attached to the 12th military company and was honorably discharged in 1946.
“While he enjoyed a happy and healthy life following the war, he did not earn full recognition and full service and access to military benefits he rightfully earned.”
Mr. Heck said on Feb. 18, 1946, U.S. President Harry Truman signed the Rescission Acts into law. This law denied benefits to more than 200,000 Filipino veterans, who served before July 1946, promised to them five years prior by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
He said the men and women, who joined the war prior to 1946, put their lives on the line for the Allied cause and “helped us win the war in the Pacific. Yet due to technicality, they are not offered the recognition they deserve.”
10 FILVETS DIE EACH DAY
Mr. Heck said, “With every day that passes, it is estimated that ten of these forgotten soldiers die having received no answer or recognition from the government.
“My district is home to four remaining veterans, including Francisco Cedula, who died last year. I am eternally thankful to their services.”
On Feb. 22nd last year, Rep. Heck rose for the first time on the floor of Congress to pay tribute for 2:43 minutes to Filipino World War II veteran, Cmdr. Francisco “Frank” Cedula, who died on Feb. 2nd, 2011 at the age of 88. Mr. Cedula was the only survivor of the Battle of [Barangay] Piis, known as Kilometer 135 in Lucban, Quezon Province in the Philippines.
Mr. Heck said last year “at least three Filipino WW II veterans passed away without seeing the fruits of their supreme sacrifice: the culmination of America’s promise for official recognition and full benefits equity for their courage and heroic exploits during the war. The promise, made by America, has been languishing in the past 60 years.”
An active member of the Filipino-American Veterans of Nevada (FAV-NV), Mr. Cedula wrote two books, “WWII Filipino Veterans: An Endangered Human Specie,” and a sequel, “Denial and Restitution by America,” which thanked the U.S. Congress for approving the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill subsumed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama in 2009.
In the first book, Mr. Cedula wrote vividly “the scene of the bloody massacre, where bodies of the more than 100 Filipino and American soldiers, laid scattered all over the place in Kilometer 135. He was the lone survivor of that battle after being bayoneted four times and left for dead and he could not ever forget the ghastly scene.”
CENOTAPH AT BATTLE
Before he died, Mr. Cedula returned to the Philippines to secure the funding from the Philippine government for the construction of Kilometer 135 Memorial Shrine, a cenotaph to the Battle of Barangay Piis.
Ceasar Elpidio, president and founder of the Filipino American Veterans of Nevada (FAVN), said unlike Mr. Oppus, Mr. Cedula “was one of the lucky ones to be recognized and compensated” from the ARRA. His widow received the benefit on Mr. Cedula’s behalf.
Luke Perry, press relations representative of the Las Vegas-based FAVN, said Mr. Oppus is one of the 24,000 Filipino veterans who were denied of the ARRA as their names could not be found in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri.
Rep. Heck is one of the 90 signatories to the pending Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier [D-CA], which will let the U.S. Veterans Affairs to accept benefit applications even if their names are not listed in the NPRC.
Aside from Rep. Heck, Rep. Shelley [D-Nev.] and Rep. Mark Amodei [R-Nev.] have also co-sponsored the bill, making Nevada the only state of sorts, whose congressmen from both sides of the aisle had endorsed the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011.
Messrs. Perry and Elpidio are appealing to their fellow Nevadans to call the office of U.S. Senator Dean Heller [R-NV] to introduce a Senate version that would compliment the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011.
In endorsing the bill last Feb. 7th, Mr. Amodie said, “These brave veterans courageously served the cause of freedom in the U.S. Army and earned their benefits. I thank them for their services and am pleased to cosponsor this legislation on behalf of the Filipino American community.”?
At the 66th anniversary of the signing of the Rescission Act of 1946 last Feb. 18, Mr. Greg Lemon, Heck’s spokesman, released the following:?”It has been sixty-six years since the passage of the Rescission Act. With every day that passes it is estimated that ten of these forgotten soldiers die having received no answer or recognition of service from our government. Prior attempts to justly compensate these veterans fell short in recognizing all of these heroes.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Filipino WW II Veteran Augusto R. Oppus. (jGLiPhoto courtesy of Luke Perry)
Rep. Joseph J. Heck is shown delivering his tribute for Filipino WW II Veteran Augusto R. Oppus on the floor of the U.S. Congress last March 8th. (jGLiPhotograb on Youtube)