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Bato confident bill on military pension reform will pass 19th Congress

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Wednesday expressed confidence that the bill seeking to introduce a new pension system for incoming military and uniformed personnel (MUP) will be approved in the 19th Congress.

He issued the remark a day after Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno disclosed that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is “okay” with the proposal to reform the pension system for the MUP as he warned that failure to address the ballooning cost of pensions for retirees could lead to a “fiscal collapse.”

Dela Rosa recalled that these reforms had already been discussed during the 18th Congress but they failed to approve the measure introducing a new pension system.

“Last administration pa ‘yan, panahon pa ni [former] President [Rodrigo] Duterte, tina-tackle na namin ‘yan sa Kongreso ‘yung paggawa ng measure na ‘yan to address ‘yung magiging fiscal deficit at magiging malaking problema ng gobyerno kung ‘di ‘to ma-address… So siguro this Congress, baka lulusot na ‘yan,” he said in an interview on SuperRadyo dzBB.

(It's been discussed during the time of Pres. Duterte on how we can address the fiscal deficit. It will be a big problem for the government if this is not addressed. Hopefully it will be passed in the 19th Congress.)

Since there are already bills seeking a new pension system for MUP filed in the Senate, Dela Rosa said these should be tackled at the committee level so they can pass it immediately.

The lawmaker lamented that around two-thirds of the annual appropriations for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the Bureau of Fire Protection were allocated to personnel services where the pension and gratuity fund are lodged.

“Napakalaki talaga [ng budget for pension]. Dapat ang malaki dapat d’yan ‘yung capital outlay at MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) para maganda ang performance ng ating ahensya,” he said.

(The budget for the pension is really big, but it should go to capital outlay and MOOE which may improve the agencies' performance.)

The former PNP chief said he believes that the new system will not cause demoralization among the military and uniformed personnel as it will only apply to new entrants.

“Hindi po maapektuhan ‘yung mga ongoing ngayon na mga retirado kasi kapag ihihinto ‘yan right away, immediately, magiging abrupt ‘yung changes, hindi po matanggap ‘yan ng mga retirado kasi yung kanilang mindset ay nakaset na sa prevailing na sitwasyon,” he said.

(It will not affect those who are already retired because if it will be implemented right away, it will cause abrupt changes. They may not accept it because they already have their mind set on the current situation.)

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said this reform is “long overdue.”

“I shall await the ‘version’ of this [administration] and examine their approach to the problem,” Pimentel said.

While Senator Francis Tolentino said this is a “cause for alarm”, he said the government should also look into possible reforms on other pension systems like the Social Security System.

“Dapat siguro dito isang aral na lang (there should be a single study) how we can surmount these threats as to the stability of our pension system,” Tolentino said in an online interview with reporters.

In another interview on DobolB TV, former AFP Chief of Staff and former Senator Rodolfo Biazon said the government must study carefully this new pension system for military men and other uniformed personnel.

“Okay [ito] pero dapat pag-aralan ng mabuti ano ang hangganan kung gaano kataas [ang contribution]… kasi ang pension, hindi lang ang sundalo ang nakataya d’yan, ang nakataya d’yan yung pamilya n’ya. Kaya medyo ingat nang kaunti. Kung ano ang tama siguro pag-aralan,” he said.

(This is okay, but it should be studied carefully. Because the pension will also affect the soldiers' families. We should be careful and study it.) —VAL, GMA Integrated News