Saturday, May 12, 2007

Guam Leaders Optimistic About War Reparations

Leaders optimistic about WWII reparations
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Saturday, May 12, 2007

While House Resolution 1595, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, made it passed the House of Representatives with a two-thirds vote this week it must still garner a majority of the votes in the U.S. Senate. Two of the individuals who were instrumental in Guam's quest for war reparations discussed the importance of this landmark moment in our island's history.

Senator Tony Unpingco (R) and former chief justice and senator Benjamin J. Cruz were appointed to the Guam War Claims Review Commission in September 2003. The membership was established by Congress to gather facts about Guam residents who lived through the Japanese occupation to help determine whether or not they've been compensated in the same way as other U.S. citizens who were in similar situations. It was in December of that same year when several hearings were held at the Guam Legislature, allowing survivors to share their stories with the Commission about the struggles they had to endure during the occupation.

The Commission then compiled a report acknowledging the suffering and loyalty of Guamanians during the occupation. The Commission ultimately found that Guam citizens did not receive parity when compared to other American citizens who suffered similar hardships elsewhere. Seeing this process and delays in Guam's quest for war reparations, Unpingco remains cautiously optimistic that the Act will make it past the Senate.

He encourages all Guamanians to once again fight for what is right, saying, "We need to have everyone here on Guam to really if they have any influence in the senate to write to them, otherwise the closure will be the same as it was just introduced will die." In fact, HR 1595 did suffer an untimely demise in the 109th Congress, but hopefully won't in the current Congress.

Cruz also remains hopeful about its passage this time around, noting that the compensation levels include the following:

- $25,000 for death, payable to heirs
- $15,000 for rape or severe injury (like a loss of a limb)
- $12,000 for forced labor and other personal injury
- $10,000 for forced march or internment
- $7,000 to all heirs of those persons who survived the war but have since passed away, payable to spouse, children or parents

Said Cruz, "In this bill, the $12,000 has been reduced to $7,000...I think that's where the problem's going to be in this bill if the Senate has hearings and especially the Judiciary Committee has hearings, and they look at that it's going to open up a whole other Pandora's Box of precedence that's my only concern about this bill."

Cruz adds HR 1595 has evolved and probably will continue to evolve while in the Senate, adding that while there are still major hurdles ahead he commends both Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo and former congressman Robert Underwood for their work on the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act.

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