Bikol War Vets Denied of US Benefits

Monday, April 19th, 2010

CANAMAN, CAMARINES SUR (12 April) - DURING A BRIEF gathering of local World War II guerillas in this Camarines town to commemorate "Araw ng Kagitingan," surviving members of the once famous "Tancong Vaca Guerilla Unit" have revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs of the US Government had denied their claims under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC), to receive some $9, 000 to $15, 000 dollars in benefits from the US government.

83 year-old Santiago T. Amaro, both veteran of the "Tancong Vaca Guerillas" and the 19th BTC - PEFTOK, a Filipino unit sent during the Korean War, revealed that all surviving 10 veterans in Canaman town have been denied of the pension benefits from FVEC, a compensation plan for eligible Filipino veterans under US President Barrack Obama administration.

Amaro said that in an official letter sent by Kenneth J. Mcquown, manager of the US Veterans Service Center at Roxas Blvd., Manila, the former was informed that according to verification of valid military service by the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) at St. Louis Missouri, there is no evidence that [Amaro] served as a member of the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, including recognized guerilla units in the service of the armed forces of the US."

The letter was a reply by the US Veteran Affairs to Amaro's and 9 other Canaman veterans' application for pension claims, dated February 24, 2009.

Amaro said that even today only about 100 men of the "Bicol brigade" of the "Tancong Vaca Guerillas" have been recognized for pension benefits by the Philippine Government, despite the guerillas reportedly having a force, including its intelligence network, of 11,000 men and women since it was formed by three prominent Bikolanos from Camarines Sur on March 8, 1942.

According to a book written by historian Jose Barrameda, the dynamic resistance movement against the Japanese from 1942-1945 was organized by leaders who later became prominent public figures in Camarines Sur like wealthy landlord, Elias Madrid from this town; Major Juan Q. Miranda, the guerillas' over-all commander; and Leon S.A. Aureus, who became a newspaperman and Naga Mayor.

The rejection of the US government on their claim for benefits, "have been accepted by his fellow veterans," Amaro said.

He added, "that even after the war their leaders who mostly died in the 1970s and 1980s during the Marcos Government, did not get full compensation from the Philippine Government."

"Our war exploits [are] often told in stories, but [are] never officially honored as documented events, until now," Amaro said. (SONNY SALES)

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