War reparations checks withheld

LONGER WAIT: World War II survivor Cynthia Terlaje places a flag during a memorial service and Mass at the Manenggon Memorial in July 2018. Terlaje and many other survivors will not be able to receive compensation for atrocities they survived during the war until Congress passes a bill correcting a deficiency in the existing federal act. Post file photo

A deficiency in the World War II Loyalty Recognition Act is preventing reparation checks from being mailed to the victims of the Japanese occupation of Guam during the war.

"There is a structural deficiency in the law to enable the Treasury to cut the checks. The office knew about this since May of last year, as per Treasury, and said nothing," Del. Michael San Nicolas told The Guam Daily Post, referring to former Del. Madeleine Bordallo's office.

"(Bordallo's office) initiated several legislative attempts to fix this but they didn't move forward, and they didn't inform me about this problem or about their attempts in any fashion. We had to find this out through our own inquiries," San Nicolas said.

Efforts to reach Bordallo by phone for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Bordallo was in Washington, D.C., when she talked to The Guam Daily Post on Monday regarding another issue.

The Department of Justice Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has reached decisions on nearly 250 claims.

However, San Nicolas said, no checks have been issued because the Loyalty Recognition Act does not include a provision to authorize payments. Reparations range from $10,000 to $25,000.

Act of Congress

Under the Loyalty Recognition Act, the money is supposed to come from Section 30 funding that the federal government pays to Guam from the income tax payments made by federal and military personnel who work on Guam. An additional 5 percent of the money will be kept by the federal government in administrative fees. 

San Nicolas said the portion of Guam's Section 30 money reserved for war reparations is being deposited into a separate account at the Treasury Department. But San Nicolas said it can’t be released until the Loyalty Recognition Act is amended by Congress to authorize compensation checks to be issued.

Messed up

"Madeleine messed up," said former Sen. Frank Blas Jr., who is the president of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation. "She was the author," Blas added, of the Loyalty Recognition Act.

Blas doesn't know why the law lacks a provision authorizing the Treasury to issue compensation checks, but he recalled that Bordallo used to refer to the use of Section 30 funding as "just a bookmark," or a placeholder.

"She had every intent to go back once it passed and change that up so there was a different funding source," Blas said. "I think in all that she forgot to put the appropriation clause in."

Manåmko' will have to wait longer

Blas said he met with a number of manåmko' Tuesday morning, who were "visibly disappointed."

"It's very sad," he said. "They're going to have to wait a little longer."

How long depends on "how quickly Michael San Nicolas can draft and move a measure (to amend the act)," Blas said.

San Nicolas said he will seek a revision of the law to authorize payments but that will take some time and further delay the payments to the dwindling number of elderly survivors of World War II.

"Our next steps will be to once again try to identify the specific legislative deficiency, and reinitiate a process to get it fixed," he said.

"Due to the lack of transparency on this issue since May (2018), and the complete lack of transition and information, the timeline to remedy this is uncertain but surely won't be in the immediate future as it is dependent on the legislative process," San Nicolas said.

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