While the Opposition continues to push the government for fiscal stimulus and social amelioration funds for Filipinos most affected by the pandemic, the same individuals appear to be indifferent to the looming fiscal crisis brought about by the huge deficit in the pension fund of police, military and other uniformed government personnel. The present shortfall as estimated by the Government Service Insurance System is P9.6 trillion. The amount is equivalent to 50% of the GDP of the country pre-pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte raised the issue during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 2020 and, since then, Congressman Joey Salceda has filed House Bill No. 9593 which finally addresses the need to establish a unified pension fund system for government uniformed personnel.
The pension fund crisis was triggered by the bankruptcy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Retirement and Separation Benefits System (RSBS) in 1998 based on a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Report which was submitted after an investigation into alleged anomalous transactions by its officials. The AFP-RSBS was established in December 30, 1973 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 361 issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos. AFP personnel had been complaining about delayed pension benefits for the longest time. This was one of the long-standing grievances of AFP personnel which made them easy targets for recruitment by officers who led coup attempts and other destabilization plots against the government from 1986 to 2001. This was consistent with the findings of the Feliciano Commission, which was formed after the Oakwood Mutiny in July 27, 2003 when the Magdalo Group seized the Oakwood Serviced Residences Complex in the Makati CBD by AFP and PNP SAF personnel. On December 15, 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) issued Executive Order 590 dissolving the AFP-RSBS and transferred its assets to the Land Bank and Development Bank of the Philippines under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In June 2019, Duterte signed Congress Joint Resolution No. 1, which authorized an increase in the base pay of retired military and uniformed personnel (MUP) providing relief to some 200,000 retirees.
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The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Tuesday released the requirements of retired military uniformed personnel Armed Forces of the Philippines – General Headquarters (AFP-GHQ), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
The DBM said it released P29.9 billion to the AFP-GHQ, P21.7 billion to the PNP, P1.9 billion to the BFP, and around P731 million to the BJMP.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, the Chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense, presided over the hearing last May 20, 2021, which included representatives from the other concerned committees including Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, Ways and Means and Finance. Lacson is pushing for the approval of the consolidated Senate Bills as there are several which have been filed since 2019. Also present at the hearing was National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon, representing the Department of Finance headed by Secretary Carlos Dominguez. Uniformed government personnel pensions are higher by nine times compared to the average amount received by a Social Security System (SSS) pensioner and three times higher than the average Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) pension because it is indexed to current salary grades. No contribution is made by uniformed personnel unlike civil servants under the Civil Service Commission who contribute their monthly share from their salaries.
It is only under the Duterte administration that Senator Lacson has found a strong ally in addressing the plight of uniformed government personnel, particularly the members of the AFP and the PNP. At present, the pension fund is financed by a direct allocation from the annual national budget. It includes the men and women under the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Bureau of Corrections and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.
On behalf of the 220,000 MUP retirees, let me say a lifetime “THANK YOU” to PRRD for Joint Resolution No 1. No other president has shown such concern for those who served and offered their lives for country and people. All we have to do is continue breathing for as long as we can
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) June 13, 2019
It is easy for Opposition stalwarts to shout stimulus and ayuda at the top of their lungs without taking into account the big picture. Senator Lacson and Albay Representative Salceda are both known for their diligence and insistence on complete staff work which are both necessary in the passage of quality legislation which addresses all of the issues. It is unfortunate that the Opposition continues to criticize the administration and legislators who are helping it address the serious problems caused by the pandemic, particularly the allocation of scarce financial resources due to the drastic decrease in revenue collection. We actually need to elect more experienced and responsible legislators in the Senate and House of Representatives. We should exercise the same due diligence in analyzing the qualifications of candidates in the coming 2022 election.
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