THE US House of Representatives on Wednesday (US time) unanimously passed a bill that seeks to award Filipino World War II veterans the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the US Congress gives to civilians.
“Today, the United States Congress took a historic step forward in honoring the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers that served our country during World War II,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who introduced the bill to the chamber.
“With unanimous support from the United States Congress, our bill now heads to the President’s desk,” she added.
“I urge the President to sign this bill into law before the year’s end, and honor our veterans with this long-overdue recognition,” Gabbard said.
The bill, which passed the Senate in July, acknowledges the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against the Imperial Forces of Japan during World War II.
The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 30 following remarks by the bill’s sponsor — Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — and several co-sponsors, including Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Joe Heck (R-Nevada), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), and Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).
The bill had previously passed the Senate in July. It will now head to the desk of President Barack Obama.
The Senate version of the bill was authored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono and was co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of 71 senators.
“These veterans were instrumental to an Allied victory in the Pacific theater, but their fight didn’t end with the war,” Hirono said in a statement.
“For decades, they have continued to fight for the benefits they have earned and to be reunited with their families in the United States. I thank my Senate colleagues for joining me in recognizing these veterans’ service and sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of our nation’s highest civilian honors.”
The Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC lauded the passage of the bill.
“We welcome this good news and extend our appreciation to all the advocates and supporters of the bill at the US House of Representatives and the Senate,” Minister Patrick Chuasoto, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Philippine Embassy said in a statement.
“Our veterans’ sacrifice is one of the greatest stories of heroism, courage, and strength that our two countries have ever seen. From ordinary civilians to defenders of free nations, these men and women deserve our deepest respect and gratitude,” Chuasoto said.
Chuasoto also recognized the contributions of the Philippine Consulates General and Filipino communities across the United States, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, and the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project in the success of the joint campaign.
“We look forward to the final step of President Obama’s signing this bill into law,” Chuasoto said.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate on July 13, 2016 and is now one step closer to becoming a law.
The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 seeks to award a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions in the United States, collectively, to 260,000 Filipino veterans in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.