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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Retired soliders asked to await for 2018 pension 

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called on retired military and uniformed personnel (MUP) who have raised concerns about their 2018 pension differentials to be patient as the government needs to prioritize funding for its coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

Lorenzana made the call amid the controversy surrounding the P20 billion slashed from the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) for retired uniformed personnel under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

In an interview during his courtesy call to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco at the House of Representatives, Lorenzana said he believes “there’s no harm done” with the delay in the payment of 2018 pension differentials to retired MUP.

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“Ito lang po ang paalala natin sa pensioners na nagde-demand na makuha na ‘yung arrears ng 2018 na kung pwede lang po sana ay maghintay lang tayo ng konting panahon dahil ‘yung pera kinain ng Covid at marami tayong pagkakagastusan dito. Bibili pa tayo ng vaccines so baka hindi kayanin (Our reminder to our pensioners who are demanding to get their arrears for 2018 is to wait for a while because the funding was diverted for Covid and we have a lot of expenses for this. We still have to purchase vaccines so [the budget] might not even be enough),” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said the government is not backing away from its obligation, and pensioners can help by being patient in waiting for their pension arrears.

“Huwag nating pilitin ang gobyerno na mangutang para ibayad sa inyo. Anyway, dinoble naman ang pension ninyo since 2018, except ‘yung four months—January to April—so palagay ko hindi kayo mahihirapan (Let’s not force the government to borrow money just to pay you. Anyway, your pension was doubled since 2018, except for four months--January to April--so I think you won’t have a hard time),” he said.

The Department of Budget and Management had originally proposed PHP172.9 billion under the PGF to partially fund the payment of the 2018 pension differences for MUP.

However, in the final version of the 2021 GAA, the amount was reduced to PHP152.9 billion or a difference of PHP20 billion, thus affecting the payment of the 2018 pension differentials.

House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric yap said the PHP20 billion was a buffer fund, which the DBM and the legislature all agreed to realign in favor of budget items meant to address the coronavirus pandemic, including the procurement of vaccines and personal protective equipment of medical front-liners.

Yap said he would file a PHP50-billion supplemental budget to help absorb the fund deficiency brought about by the PHP70-billion budget cut made by the previous House leadership in the 2020 budget.

Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab also manifested that the 2020 national budget had several realignments, confirming that the PGF was then slashed by PHP74.029 billion by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and former Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte.

Ungab chaired the House Committee on Appropriations during Cayetano’s term as Speaker.

Meanwhile, Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor disputed Yap’s claim that the PHP20 billion in military and police retirees’ pension money was diverted to Covid-19 vaccine procurement.

“To set the record straight, the vaccine procurement fund approved by Congress, as recommended by the bicameral conference committee (bicam) and carried in the 2021 budget, was PHP2.5 billion, which is good for just a few thousand doses and which was the amount recommended by the executive branch at the beginning of the pandemic,” he said.

Defensor noted that PHP2.5 billion is the amount that is “sure of funding,” as it is part of the “programmed” portion of the 2021 national budget.

He said Congress allocated an additional PHP172 billion but lodged it in the “unprogrammed” part of the outlay, which means it is available only if there is excess revenue, there is a new tax measure as funding source, or there are loans.

“Through the bicam, Congress juggled at least PHP182 billion in appropriations recommended by President (Rodrigo) Duterte in his version of the budget. None of that, not even a centavo or peso, was added by the two chambers to the Palace-recommended PHP2.5-billion vaccine procurement fund,” he said.


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