Signature campaign to support Guam war claims launched
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
HAGÅTÑA — Guam residents have launched a signature campaign to petition President Bush, members of the U.S. Congress and the Guam Legislature into supporting the Guam War Claims Review Commission’s recommendations.
“We are sad about the lack of official support for the war commission’s report,” said Dr. Jose Nededog, who is spearheading the signature campaign sponsored by the Young Men’s League of Guam.
The commission has recommended, among others, that Congress appropriate $187 million for war reparations claims of the Chamorros who had suffered from atrocities of the Japanese imperial forces during World War II. The commission recommended that families of those died be paid $25,000 each, and those injured be given $12,000 each.
Members of the commission, along with ranking Guam officials testified and sought the support of the Committee on Resources chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo during a hearing in Washington D.C. last month.
Some Guam senators, however, have misgivings about the recommendations, saying the recommended amounts were not commensurate to the pains that Chamorro people went through during the war.
“We have not gotten any recognition despite our loyalty to the U.S. We should expect at least a ‘thank you’ from the U.S. government for supporting its war campaign against Japan,” Nededog said. “Japan has been relieved of their responsibility without the US consulting us.”
Nededog deplored that of 15 Guam senators, only seven signed up in support of the petition.
“They said it’s premature to bring this petition because there is no bill in Congress yet. But when is the right time to bring up this issue?” Nededog asked. “Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo has not filed the bill because she is waiting for senators to support the commission’s report.”
Bordallo, who is seeking reelection and running unopposed, expressed confidence that White House and Congress would support Guam’s bid.
She said she is drafting a pertinent bill, which she expects to be backed by the Bush administration and her colleagues in Congress.
“There were changes made in the recommendations. Congress is reviewing the recommended $187 million war claims. There is no price on death but we have to move forward with it,” Bordallo told Variety.
She is also encouraging the Guam legislature to adopt a resolution in support of the commission’s report.
“If they have other recommendations, they have to put them together and we will bring it to the resources committee,” Bordallo said.
He said that passing a resolution too soon might only jeopardize Guam’s claims.
Respicio recalled that in 1991 – the second time that Congress reviewed Guam’s claims – the Guam Legislature passed a resolution in support of war reparation claims recommended by the first local commission.
“But after the legislature passed that resolution, two senators went to Washington D.C. to reject the findings and the proposed compensation package. That ruined the possibility for us getting compensated,” said Respicio, whose committee conducted an oversight hearing on the war reparation commission’s report two months ago.
“When the bill authorizing the appropriation of $187 million is filed, that’s the time for us to make a decision,” he added.
Sen. Robert Klitzkie echoed Respicio’s position. “We don’t know yet what kind of bill will be introduced in Congress,” Klitzkie said. “Right now, there is no bill for the legislature to direct its support. There is still an ongoing discussion about what amount is adequate or not.”
But Sen. Mark Forbes, who was among the seven lawmakers who signed the petition, said Guam is racing against time.
“This is not a question of agreeing or disagreeing with particular recommendations,” Forbes said. “At this stage, we have to recognize that there’s a lot of people directly affected by the war are getting old.”
“We can’t keep debating this over and over again because every year, more and more people who experienced the war are leaving us. And I would like to see them receive some kind of recognition before they leave,” he added.
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