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Claims being accepted for World War II Chamorros

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It is a historic day of atonement that was more than 70 years in the making. Congresswoman Madeliene Bordallo announced that a special commission in Washington will now begin accepting claims for those who died or suffered during the World War II occupation of Guam.

From December 8 1941 through the summer of 44, thousands of Chamorros suffered untold atrocities at the hands of Japanese occupation forces. Congresswoman Bordallo says survivors and immediate family members of those who died from the war can finally file reparations claims directly with the Foreign Claims settlement commission.

"What I think is most important is that our man'amko are finally being recognized for the incredible patriotism they exhibited during the occupation and the atrocities that they had to endure," she said.

The payouts range from $25,000 to $15,000 for claims of death, rape, and severe physical injury.  Claim forms are available in English and Chamorro, and the deadline to file is June of next year. Bordallo says her Guam and DC offices can help those with questions. But some have criticized the law's funding source.  It's not new money, but Section 30 funds, taxes paid by federal employees here that Guam already receives each year.

"It was not my ideal solution, but it does ensure that our survivors will receive their claim and not just an unfounded promise from the federal government," she added.

Bordallo says congressional rules now require a specified funding source, which is why section 30 funds were tapped.  She says four times she managed to pass a bill in the house only to have it die in the senate.

"Our process was the only way to get this bill passed," Bordallo stated.

Bordallo is still seeking an alternative funding solution so that Guam's local treasury is not harmed.  Governor Eddie Calvo is skeptical, and describes his feelings as bittersweet. He is happy that there's an acknowledgement of wrongdoing against innocent victims, but he resents that it's going to be paid by the people of Guam. "It's ironic that we have billed the federal government $78 million for next year so $10 million will be taken away out from health, education and safety and tax refunds to pay for war claims," she said.

The governor refers to the threshold set be law, any money in excess of that goes toward war claims payments.  Section 30 funds are used to cover all sorts of obligations and is usually allocated before its even received.  Bordallo says if it ends up as the funding source so be it.  It is a matter of priority, saying, "I just felt that this is one time that we have to place the man'amko as a priority."

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