New York – The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 pending before the US Congress is closer to passage after having been unanimously passed by the US Senate last July and subsequently receiving the required number of co-sponsors (at least 290) in the House of Representatives, according to a press statement of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. recently.
“The Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. welcomes the development,” the press release dated 28 September 2016 further stated.
The U.S. House measure, HR 2737, already gained more than 300 co-sponsors, above the two-thirds threshold met by previous Congressional Gold Medal bills, according to the website of the U.S. Congress (www.congress.gov). The U.S. Congress must formally approve the bill before President Barack Obama signs it into law.
|With Maine Senator Susan Collins
The final passage of the bill into law would ensure that 200,000 Filipino-World War II veterans, most posthumously, will be collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Only 16,000 to 17,000 soldiers remain in the U.S. and the Philippines. The award is a significant step towards honoring veterans for their bravery and sacrifice in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Among the minority groups in the U.S. that have already been awarded the Medal are the Japanese American Nisei Soldiers, Puerto Rican Soldiers, Navajo Code Talkers, Women Air Services pilots, Montford Marines and Tuskegee Airmen.
The Consulate General in New York has been actively rallying the support of the Northeast U.S. Filipino-American community to lobby for the passage of H.R. 2737/S. 1555. Since Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. assumed office in 2011, he has also been working to promote the cause of Filipino-American World War II veterans, with the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) which was launched in 2014. The campaign for the Congressional Gold Medal Award Bill for the Filipino-American World War II veterans was launched by FilVetREP, led by Major General Antonio Taguba (United States Army, Retired).
|Lawyers Merit Salud, JT Mallonga, ConGen Mario De Leon Jr. with senior legislative officials of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
In all, Consul General De Leon met with officials of 23 Representatives (out of the current 58 Northeast U.S. House bill co-sponsors) in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In his calls, he was accompanied by community leaders, including National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) officials Attys. JT Mallonga and Merit Salud; New York community leader Mr. Mon Villongco, Dr. Emilio Quines, and Mr. Rene Ballenas; New Jersey community leader Ms. Gwen de Vera; Pittsburgh community leader Ms. Teodora Schipper; Philadelphia community leaders Drs. Rommel and Aida Rivera, Mr. Ernesto Gange and Mr. Brad Baldia; Rhode Island community leader Captain Armando “Doy” Heredia; Boston community leaders Mr. Frank Celoza and Mr. Rudy Hermosa; Maine community leader Tess Cardona; New Hampshire community leader Ms. Jocelyn Santiago; and Vermont community leader Father Julian Asukan.
From 2015 to 2016, Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. has recognized the significant contribution of community leaders in the U.S. Northeast, NaFFAA, and FilVetREP who helped secure the Congressional targets and personally followed up with the district offices of senior legislative officials such as Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ); Senator Susan Collins (R-ME); Senator Jack Reed (D-RI); Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R, PA-8); Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D, NJ-6); Rep. Kathleen Rice (D, NY-4), Rep. Michael Doyle (D, PA-14), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D, ME-1), Rep. David Cicilline (D, RI-1), Rep. Donald Norcross (D, NJ-1), Rep. Peter Welch (D, VT), Rep. Tim Murphy (R, PA-18), and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) all of whom have respectively signed on to co-sponsor S. 1555 (the Senate version of the bill) and H.R. 2737.
|With Representative Michael Doyle (D-PA, 14)
As Consul General De Leon winds up his term this mid-October, he thanks the Filipino community for their strong partnership and in conveying our message to US Legislators and lobbying with them for legislative enactments that promote Philippine interests in the US and more robust US-PH relations. He hopes that the passage of the Congressional Gold Medal Bill can still take place within the month of October, which is celebrated as Filipino-American History Month, and would signify another milestone in commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of Philippine-U.S. diplomatic relations.