By Francis Wakefield
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Friday reiterated that they don’t have any ghost pensioners and no funds were released to them.
PVAO Administrator Usec. Ernesto G. Carolina made the clarification after a recent Commission on Audit (COA) report indicated that the government agency continued paying about P70 million worth of monthly pensions to retired soldiers who are already dead.
Base on its report, COA said that 5,721 or 84.5 percent out of 6,768 total reported deaths for the calendar year (CY) 2018 still accepted their regular monthly pensions ranging from 1 to 64 months.
However, Carolina stressed during a press briefing at the MSB Conference Room, PVAO Compound at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City that no funds are missing on their pensioner’s fund.
“I’d like to issue a clarification regarding the recent report that came out, which came out (or) culled from an audit observation report uploaded by COA in the COA website that payments were made to dead pensioners. I categorically deny the report. No payments were made to deceased or dead pensioners,” Carolina said.
“And in fairness to the COA, I read the report. The wordings of the report is that they observed, it’s an observation made in 2018 about pension payments made in the calendar year 2018, that according to them, there was (full) monitoring of the validation process meaning the status of the pensioners resulting to over remittances of pension payments. So it did not say that payments were made to dead pensioners,” he added.
Carolina, at the same time, assured that PVAO currently has a full proof validation system that allowed them to recover more than half of the P70 million over remittances as cited in the COA report.
He added that unlike before when pensions are distributed through checks, thus making it impossible for PVAO to recover the money if the pensioners are already dead or deceased, pensions are now serviced by six accredited banks, largely government banks, and three financial institutions who require them to report once every six months.
Carolina also reiterated that pensioners have to submit a proof that they are still living or still alive by forwarding an update form containing their photos with a newspaper that day as part of their verification process.
“So monthly, we prepare payroll and that is the basis of remitting the pension to this pension servicing institutions,” Carolina said.
“We remit…100 percent of pensions are paid in the banks unlike before when pensions are distributed in the continuous form of checks. When they are dead pensioners, you cannot recover the money anymore.”
“Although nasa payroll ‘yun (dead pensioners) at the time the payroll was prepared, those people were not paid because they were already in various stages of monitoring and especially now, we like to report to you that we have a full proof validation system,” he said.
To also ensure that there are no ghost pensioners, Carolina said they hired the services of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Philippine Post (PhilPost) and Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) to check on the status of every pensioner.
“We pay PSA P40,000 a month. Ginagawa ng PSA hindi ka malilibing [What the PSA is doing is that you won’t get buried] if you don’t get the death certificate. That is automatically copied furnish to PSA. PSA gives us a monthly death list and we pay them because they cross-list it to the monthly pension. Kapag may namatay dun immediately alam na namin. That is a very big help but we do not rely on that fully,” Carolina said.
“We also have a contract with PhilPost. You must also have heard about the Veterans Federation of the Philippines over the country, districts, and regional offices. They also report if there are deaths,” he said.