As Guam commemorates the 75th Liberation Day anniversary, more than 600 CHamoru victims of World War II atrocities committed by the Japanese are closer to receiving war reparations through U.S. congressional action.
Del. Michael San Nicolas' war reparations bill, HR 1365, is set for a vote in the House of Representatives at noon July 24, Washington, D.C., time. The legislation offers a technical fix that would allow the U.S. Department of the Treasury to cut checks for the 662 victims whose claims have been adjudicated by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission as of last month.
"It's official. Our war claims will finally have its day in the House, and we anticipate its long-awaited passage," San Nicolas said Sunday.
Passage of the legislation would make recent local legislative efforts to do something similar moot.
The Guam Legislature, however, can work on the war reparations claims from those who aren't covered by the congressional legislation, San Nicolas suggested.
Nearly 2,000 more who met last year's filing deadline await adjudication. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission will hold its next open meeting on May 30 for the adjudication of more war reparations claims for Guam.
Although the wartime brutalities, including massacres, forced marches, beatings and rape were committed by the Japanese, Guam war survivors are seeking reparations from the U.S. government, which pardoned Japan.
"Any local effort should focus on war claims for those that didn't make the filing deadline or who passed before the filing window opened," San Nicolas said.
"We have over 11,000 affected people who still await justice who are not a part of this ongoing federal process and our local government should focus on remedying them," San Nicolas added. "Redundant local spending on what the federal government is handling is really backward; if the local government insists on funding war claims, available money should be set aside to fund a local program for those not already covered by the federal program."
Supplemental war reparations were first authorized on Dec. 23, 2016, when then-President Barack Obama signed into law the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, or Public Law 114-328.
The Obama-era law authorizes the commission to conduct a supplemental war claims compensation program for victims and survivors of the occupation of Guam by the Japanese military during World War II. The lack of specific language for the Treasury to release the payments required a legislative fix which is being offered through San Nicolas' bill.
The law covers claims for death, rape, personal injury, severe personal injury, forced labor, forced march, internment, and hiding to evade internment. The law provides compensation to each survivor at an amount of $10,000, $12,000 or $15,000 depending on the claim, the law states.
In the case of a Guam resident who was killed during the occupation, the law states, $25,000 will be paid for distribution to either the parent, spouse, or child of the decedent "living as of the date of the enactment of this Act – Dec. 23, 2016 – in accordance with subsection," the law states.
The funding source for the payments of claims filed through the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission isn't new. It will come from Section 30 funds which Guam receives each year mostly from the income tax payments of military service members and federal personnel who work on Guam.
When the deadline to file war reparations ended in June last year, the commission reported receiving close to 3,000 claims.