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Old soldiers never die, pensions need upgrade

Last week at a dinner hosted by Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez honoring former PAF commanding generals, the main topics of conversation among the retired airmen were health care and the promised increase in the retirement pension of uniformed military personnel.

In the case of health care, I took the liberty to mention that under President Duterte, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City has been continuously upgrading its facilities for the benefit of our veterans and AFP retirees. Dr. Dominador Chiong Jr., the current VMMC administrator, has been at the forefront in making the facility on par with the best in the country. Recently, the Center inaugurated a brand-new emergency ward, possibly the largest in the Philippines, with 21 treatment rooms, two main nurse stations and a dedicated rapid assessment section or triage room. A visit by the President resulted in some 500 new beds replacing the old bunks that had seen better times, servicing generations in the past along with a brand-new 128-slice CT scan machine.

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While I brought up the many improvements at the VMMC, I also apprised my colleagues of the need for certain documents for admission to the Center. The regular AFP ID, accompanied by a copy of our retirement orders, with passport size photos, are needed for the issuance of a VMMC ID. An ID for the spouse or widow would need a copy of the marriage contract. It is good to be prepared. As with every government institution, there are bureaucratic requirements that have to be satisfied.

The other topic that generated much heat and interest was the status of the promised increase in the pension of retired officers and noncommissioned officers of the AFP.

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Our colleagues in the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association will recall that on Jan. 27, 2018, the guest of honor at the annual meeting of the association, hosted by Gen. Melchor Rosales, was then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. In his speech at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City, I noted that Diokno spoke with openness, candor and sincerity. He was brief, and went straight to the point. It was the kind of talk soldiers understand and appreciate—no fancy words, no legal gobbledygook.

First, Diokno announced that effective January 2018, President Duterte has doubled the compensation package of soldiers and policemen on active duty. It was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made during the 2016 elections.

Second, he also announced that the pension of retired officers and men of the security forces would be adjusted according to the rates called for by law starting in 2019.

This declaration that pension increases would start in 2019 was well received by the audience of more than a thousand PMA alumni. Unfortunately, as of May this year, the Department of Budget and Management has yet to issue guidelines for the implementation of pension indexing for 2019. The delay has fanned rumors that there will be no pension adjustments this year as promised, lowering the morale of retirees particularly those
in the lower ranks.

There are five prominent retired generals in the Cabinet: Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (Class 1970), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Class 1973), National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (Class 1974), Interior Secretary Eduardo Año (Class 1983), and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista (Class 1985).

There are a host of other military retirees at the sub-Cabinet level of government. We call on them to vigorously support the implementation of the promised increase. They will not be walking in the corridors of power forever. After a while, they will join the ranks of retirees on the sidelines, perhaps walking the golf courses of Camp Aguinaldo, Villamor Air Base and the Philippine Navy, or serving as caregivers for family members, or being cared for themselves by others.

Now is the time to unite and act for the common good, for something that has long been delayed and promised by the government for services already rendered in the past. The President has often expressed his strong faith and confidence in military officers. That is the reason for the large number of
uniformed retirees in his administration. The pension issue should therefore find favorable resolution when presented to the Commander in Chief.

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TAGS: PAF, Ramon Farolan, Reveille, Rodrigo Duterte, Rozzano Briguez, veterans memorial medical center, VMMC
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