Senators Cruz, Unpingco come out firing on war reparations bill
by Sabrina Salas Matanane,
KUAM NewsTuesday, May 10, 2005
Guam's efforts to secure compensation for the survivors of the Japanese occupation could be dead in its tracks. Last month a Guam delegation left to the nation's capitol to provide testimony before the House Resources Committee on House Resolution 1595 - the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act - introduced by Guam congressional delegate Madeline Bordallo (D).On our News8 Extra program last night, two members of that delegation contend the island's quest for war reparations have come to a screeching halt.Senators Tony Unpingco (R) and B.J. Cruz (D) dropped the bomb about HR-1595. Said the latter during a live interview, "It's dying, if it's not dead already." Both policymakers were on the Guam War Claims Review Commission, which went out of existence after the completion of the Commission's report evaluating the treatment of island residents during the Japanese occupation. And whether the compensation provided to the victims was comparable to that provided under other claims statues covering world war two losses.The report was submitted last year to the House Resources Committee, the Department of the Interior, and the Bush Administration. The report was incorporated into the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act practically in its entirety. Just days before last months hearing, concerns were raised about the 1990 cutoff provision which would exclude eligibility for compensation to survivors of the Japanese occupation that died before this year.Despite the objections against the inclusion of the provision, those who were scheduled to testify in Washington D.C. agreed to present a unified position. According to senators Unpingco and Cruz it was Governor Felix Camacho's opposition to the 1990 provision and Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo's comments on the floor to perfect the bill that turned the tide, creating the tsunami that swept all hope for progress out to sea.Senator Cruz would continue to say ,"Because delegate Bordallo, congressmen [Robert] Underwood, [Ben] Blaz, senator Unpingco and myself - we had all gotten the marching orders to go down this one line but all of a sudden she's taking off in one direction, and the Governor's taking off in another direction and we're sitting here saying, 'Whoa! When did you guys make the decision, why didn't you guys tell us about it?'"According to Governor Felix Camacho, no one should be blamed for what happened; rather the issue at hand is that compensation should be provided for all survivors. And if the bill is dead, it's not because Guam didn't present one voice but rather the United States isn't willing to own up to its responsibility.The Governor told KUAM News today, "I think nobody is trying to dismiss anybody here. If blame is to be laid out, I think the blame is not with one or the other but rather the body itself, Congress, in giving justice to the people of Guam, not on any one provision but giving us our fair share of war reparations and that's where it will really ought to be is will they give our people a chance to make our case."While the fate of HR-1595 is unknown, according to senators Unpingco and Cruz, the writing is on the wall. "We're fighting for something we shot ourselves in the foot," said Senator Unpingco, the former speaker of the Guam Legislature, "and that's why I'm frustrated on this issue right now."The Governor wasn't the only one opposed to the 1990 cutoff provision. As we reported, I Nasion Chamoru (The Chamorro Nation), Democratic Party of Guam chairperson Mike Phillips, and Senator Lou Leon Guerrero (D) also objected for the inclusion of the provision. Just today, Senator Leon Guerrero introduced Resolution 72, expressing the unity of the Guam Legislature and the people of Guam relative to war claims for all.According to Senator Leon Guerrero, the resolution presents a more unified voice for war reparations for all and it would also record the most current position of our leaders.