Del. Michael San Nicolas and certain members of the Legislature have taken separate steps to help speed up the release of war reparations checks to the more than 3,000 survivors of World War II on Guam who have filed claims with the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in Washington, D.C.
The commission has adjudicated more than $6.2 million in claims filed by more than 600 survivors of the Japanese occupation during World War II.
The remaining survivors are a fraction of what their number was when war reparations efforts began at the congressional level many years ago.
On one hand, it’s good that the recent efforts are multifaceted – one at the congressional level and the other locally, being moved along by Speaker Tina Muña Barnes and other senators, as well as the governor’s office.
On Tuesday morning, Barnes, in a press release, stated she met with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, who said that once Bill 181-35 is passed and signed into law, the administration “intends to pay off the adjudicated claims before the end of the year.”
On Guam, action on Barnes’ $7.5 million war reparations legislation has taken a temporary pause so the Legislature can discuss and finalize the 2020 budget, which has to be signed into law in a matter of weeks to prevent inessential GovGuam services from being shut down.
In Washington, San Nicolas has gained quick House approval for his legislation that fixes a technical issue that has prevented the U.S. Department of the Treasury from issuing checks for hundreds of war claims that the commission has approved.
The congressional legislation is waiting for approval by the Senate and then it goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.
Given that San Nicolas’ new legislation aims to fix an error made on Madeleine Bordallo’s watch, the Guam Legislature should not criticize San Nicolas.
San Nicolas, too, can do his part by showing some restraint – and giving his congressional office the dignity it deserves – by not airing out how he feels about island senators on social media.
Both sides need to set aside those negative vibes and focus solely on the war survivors – many of whom are in their late 80s and 90s and don't have much time.
If the local legislation becomes law first, great. If the war reparations correction bill becomes law faster, then that’s good too.
The war survivors need to be given center stage all the time. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit for putting war reparations money into the survivors’ hands. What matters is that they get the reparations before they’re out of time.