Friday, October 09, 2009

Cruz: Congress won't pass payments to heirs

Cruz: Congress won't pass payments to heirs

By Dionesis Tamondong • Pacific Daily News • October 10, 2009

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo's decision to refuse the war claims proposal by key Senate members was a mistake, said one of the members of the Guam War Claims Commission.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said the current Guam World War II Loyalty Act won't be accepted by the Senate as long as the measure requires payments to heirs of those who were killed or survived the Japanese occupation.

The Pacific Daily News requested comment from Bordallo's office. As of 6 p.m., the office didn't provide a comment.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week excluded the Guam war claims provision from the Fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.

Bordallo had inserted the measure into the spending bill earlier this year -- a move that raised the chances of the reparations bill finally passing.

The war claims bill and previous measures have failed over the decades. The House of Representatives has approved Bordallo's measures in recent years, only for it to stall in the Senate.

This year, the measure advanced further than it ever has, even getting the support of President Obama.

But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin and ranking member Sen. John McCain objected to payments for spouses and children of Guam's war survivors who have since died.

Levin and McCain offered to keep Bordallo's provision if the claims were awarded solely to those killed during the war and to living survivors of the occupation.

But Bordallo rejected the offer because it wouldn't recognize everyone who endured Guam's occupation.

"It was unfortunate that she didn't take it, but I understand the predicament she was in," Cruz said.

He said past Guam Legislatures and other officials have pushed for heirs to be included in the measure, but it goes against established, recognized legal precedence.

Cruz said the only way the war claims bill will be enacted is to hold a public hearing in Washington, D.C., and to revise the bill to comply with that legal precedence.

Congress has awarded compensation to Japanese Americans and Aleutians who suffered during World War II, but the reparations were limited to survivors and not their heirs, Cruz noted.

Cruz said Levin has been pushing legislation that would compensate about 400,000 U.S. prisoners of war, but if Guam's war claims bill is approved and heirs receive reparations, it could open the door for heirs of POW's to be compensated also.

Sen. Judith Guthertz said Congress should look at each war claims case separately.

Speaker Judith Won Pat said she was happy that Bordallo refused to accept the compromise.

She said Guam should beef up its lobbying efforts now that the island knows which federal officials it should focus its efforts on.

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