By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday assured retired military and uniformed personnel that they will receive their pension and gratuity pay despite claims that the budget funding these benefits was slashed by the Senate in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Senator Panfilo Lacson (JAY GANZON / MANILA BULLETIN)
Lacson denied that the retirement benefits of military and uniformed personnel would be affected by the drastic cuts made by the Upper Chamber in approving the GAB, as mentioned by House appropriations committee chair Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. in accusing the senators of sabotaging the government's programs.
He said several pensioners and retired military and uniformed personnel had asked him about the supposed budget cut for their pension.
But the senator branded as "fake news" Andaya's allegations.
"It's bad enough that some parties continue to peddle lies to confuse the public, all to keep their pork. It's worse if they claim they are doing this in the name of transparency. Fake news na, fake transparency pa," Lacson, who is a vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.
Lacson stressed that he even proposed an P876.42-million increase in the Pension and Gratuity Fund under the P3.757-trillion proposed national budget.
The amount will supposedly fund the P15,000 raise in the pension of 4,869 senior veterans, he added.
The proposed increase was considered by the Senate, his office said.
Having defended the Department of Defense's (DND) proposed budget for this year, Lacson said he also pushed for the increase of P666.219 million for the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) so it can purchase more medicines for its patients. The DND supervises the VMMC.
Earlier, Lacson admitted being a proponent to other major budget cuts in the 2019 GAB, particularly in the Department of Public Works and Highways' (DPWH) appropriations for Road Right of Way since the agency itself pointed out it did not need the amount.
Prior to Andaya's claim, Senator Loren Legarda, in reporting the Senate's amendments to the GAB last January, said the Pension and Gratuity Fund was reduced "based on the utilization in the previous year, to the level which we believe could be utilized".