Monday, June 9, 2008

Conflicted on the Vets

There is an inherent conflict in writing a weekly opinion column, as I have done for the last 20 years, and in being an elected public official in San Francisco, as I have been for the last 17 years. From time to time, I have had to write about certain issues which have offended certain individuals or groups who are San Francisco voters. That goes with the territory.

Most recently I wrote two columns about the need for the Filipino community to express its unequivocal support for the Filipino veterans equity bill, S.1315, which passed the US Senate 96-1 on April 24, 2008, and which is currently pending in the US House of Representatives.

In my first column, I wrote about the expected House vote on S.1315 that was set for May 21 but which was delayed. I speculated that the delay may have come from the fact that Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not have 290 House votes needed to pass S.1315 with a Suspension of the Rules call as she may not have all 230 House Democrats and at least 60 Republicans willing to vote for it.

But I also reported that Filipino veterans in Washington DC were questioning whether “a letter from San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commissioner Regalado Baldonado to Speaker Nancy Pelosi denouncing S.1315 may have played a role in the vote delay.”

I reported that the "Baldonado" letter to Speaker Pelosi and to Philippine Ambassador Willie Gaa declared S. 1315 to be "woefully insufficient" as it would provide the 12,000 Filipino veterans in the Philippines with $300 a month pension while the 6,000 Filvets in the US would be entitled to $900 a month.

I further reported that the DC veterans personally spoke with Baldonado and that he explained that the letter was prepared for him to sign by members of the Veterans Equity Center (VEC) and the Student Action for Filipino Veterans (SAVE).

In response to my column, Roy Recio, secretary of the VEC and an active member of SAVE, issued a press release this past week entitled “Call for Apology and Retraction After City College Board Trustee Rodel Rodis Attacks Student Coalition”.

The press release stated that my “article included a diatribe of speculations disguised as facts, including a claim that a letter prepared by SAVE caused Speaker Nancy Pelosi to postpone the vote for the proposed Veterans Enhancement Bill, S. 1315. However, the fact remains, Speaker Pelosi and her offices have never confirmed the exact grounds for such postponement.”

Recio did not deny that the “Baldanado” letter was written by SAVE, a fact which he further confirmed in a subsequent paragraph; only that Speaker Pelosi “never confirmed the exact grounds for such postponement." That's what he wants me to apolgize for? Is Recio naive enough to believe that Speaker Pelosi will actually acknowledge the exact grounds for the postponement?

In her article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer published on June 3, 2008 (“No veteran left behind in final battle”), Atty. Tancinco wrote that if S.1315 is passed, it will mean that “those residing in the Philippines will get only about one-third of those benefits instead of the full benefits. This is discriminatory treatment of the veterans based on residence.”

Tancinco believes that S.1315 will not correct the “historical injustice” of the Rescission Act of 1946 and that what is needed is “for the US Congress to pass another bill to revert their status back to US veterans and afford the Filipinos the same treatment as other veterans who fought under the US flag in World War II. The economic part of the bill should be incidental to the principle behind full equity.”

This is the meat of the conflict which has divided the Filipino community on the veterans issue from the outset. Tancinco and the VEC and SAVE believe, as the Baldonado letter unequivocally enunciated, that "We cannot waiver in our position or tolerate any deviation from equal treatment for all of our Filipino WW II veterans.”

SAVE’s website,, states its fundamental principle is “Commitment and support to fight for nothing less than FULL EQUITY for Filipino WWII Veterans “

Since S.1315 only provides $300 a month for the 12,000 Filipino veterans in the Philippines, instead of $900 a month, then it is much less than full equity and Atty. Tancinco, Recio and their groups will simply not accept the compromise even if S.1315 is the “last best chance” to get a Filipino veterans equity bill to pass the US Congress.

While I respect that Atty. Tancinco and many others in VEC and SAVE believe this out of genuine principle, I question the motives of Roy Recio and his band of true believers. It is well-known in San Francisco that Recio is an outspoken and active member of Bayan USA (, an organization that supports the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines.

I believe that Recio and his group will be greatly disappointed if S.1315 passes because they will be deprived of an ideological issue with which to organize the masses. The Rescission Act has been a perfect issue for them because it shows the US as betraying its promise and causing the elderly veterans to needlessly suffer. To Recio, the veterans serve a useful political purpose.

But many older activists like Lillian Galedo, national co-chair of the National Network for Veterans Equity (NNVE), with which VEC and SAVE are affiliated, wholeheartedly believe that we must do everything we can to pass S.1315 now. In an email sent out to various egroups on June 6, 2008, Galedo attached my most recent column (“Unequivocal Support for S. 1315 needed”) and wrote:

“For the people organizing on the ground, it is absolutely clear that we have unequivocal support among the long-time advocates and those who have more recently taken up the cause to restore U.S. veterans status to Filipino WWII veterans. Our center of attention should be focused on getting the final 50 or so votes to pass the House version of S. 1315, in the House of Representatives.”

I am running for re-election to the SF Community College Board this November. I fully expect Recio and his group to actively oppose me which is why their press release highlighted the fact that I am a College Board Trustee. I would appreciate any financial contribution to my campaign ($500 max). Please send your check made out to "Reelect Rodis, College Board" to 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127.

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