US EMBASSY, Manila (DWDD) – After more than seven decades, Filipino World War II Veterans based in the Philippines finally received their long-awaited recognition from the United States government through the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) on September 13, 2018 at the US Embassy in Manila. The CGM is the highest civilian honor conferred by the United States Congress for an individual’s distinguished achievements and contributions for the US.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim presented the awards to the first 13 recipients. He was assisted by Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator, LtGen. Ernesto G. Carolina AFP (RET).
The 13 initial CMG awardees served in different military areas during the war, notably, Central Luzon, Cebu and Negros. Despite being young and inexperienced, they responded to the call of the US government to serve in the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). Today, they are in their 90s and most are already sick or bed-ridden. The oldest among the awardees is 100-year-old TSGT Sixto A Navidad who served as part of the naval defense against the Japanese until the surrender in Bataan.
Col Paterno V Villoria, who served the Luzon Guerilla Army Forces, Nueva Ecija Military Area in the 1940’s, delivered a speech in response to their recognition on behalf of all the awardees. In a report from PVAO Public Affairs Office, Col. Villoria was quoted saying that “the Congressional Gold Medal represents not only the bravery and heroism of most Filipinos who fought during the war, but more importantly, recognizing their sacrifices and dedicated service to preserve freedom not only for our country, but for the rest of humanity.”
In 2016, Secretary Lorenzana who was then the Head of the Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) in Washington D.C., was part of the Filipino Veterans Recognition (FilVetRep) group that strongly lobbied for the passage of the conferment of the US CGM to Filipino World War II Veterans. The prestigious US CGM award is bestowed by the US Congress collectively for all 260,000 Filipino war veterans. In his testimonial, he highlighted the significance of the recognition of Filipino veterans in the alliance between the US and the Philippine governments, and conveyed his appreciation for the mass recognition of Filipino war veterans who rendered honorable and loyal military service for the Philippine and American flags. He also expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed to this 70-year aspiration.
The breakthrough recognition was granted when President Barrack Obama signed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) Act on December 16, 2016. Philippine Consulates General and Filipino communities in the United States, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetRep) headed by Gen. Tony Taguba also lobbied for the enactment of the law.
Under Section 3 of the law, Filipino Veterans of World War II is defined as: 1.) Any individual who served honorably at any time during the period beginning July 26, 1941, and ending on December 31, 1946; 2.) In an active-duty status under the command of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East; and 3.) (a) Within the Philippine Commonwealth Army, the Philippine Scouts, the Philippine Constabulary, Recognized Guerrilla units, the New Philippine Scouts, the First Filipino Infantry Regiment, the Second Filipino Infantry Battalion (Separate), or the First Reconnaissance Battalion or (b) commanding or serving in a unit described in the former as a United States military officer or enlisted soldier.
The FILVETREP Eligibility Committee examines and confirms applications for eligibility of Filipino Veterans of WWII.
PVAO / MCAG