Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday, July 30 welcomed the inclusion of measures meant to improve the conditions of service and life of active and retired members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) as well as other uniformed personnel in President Duterte’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 26.
In his last SONA, the President called for the passage of a bill that will ensure the fiscal stability and sustainability of the AFP and PNP’s pension system. He previously raised concerns of a growing budget burden where the total cost of pensions for retired soldiers will inevitably exceed the compensation of those in active service.
“I am asking Congress to pass a Unified System for Separation, Retirement and Pension of Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) to maintain government fiscal flexibility and provide adequate benefits and remuneration to our men and women in uniform. This shall apply only to the new entrants of the Military and (Uniformed) Services,” said the President in his SONA.
Aligned with President Duterte’s pronouncement, Go remains firm that there is a need to balance the welfare of military and other uniformed personnel, and their dependents, while addressing the possible adverse financial impact of the military pension system based on current projections.
“Mahal namin ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang mga sundalo (President Rodrigo Duterte and I love the soldiers). Gagawin namin lahat para maproteksyunan sila (We will do everything to protect them). Kaya natin sinusubukang masolusyunan ito ngayon dahil ayaw naming madehado ang ating kasundaluhan kung magiging iba ang direksyon ng mga susunod na administrasyon pagdating sa pension reform (This is why we are now trying to find a solution for this because we do not want the soldiers to be at the losing end if the next administration will change direction when it comes to pension reform),” Go said.
“Kung hindi natin ma-cure ang problemang ito ngayon, baka mas lumala pa ang sitwasyon at kawawa hindi lang ang pensioners kundi ang taumbayan (If we cannot cure this problem now, the situation might worsen to the detriment of the soldiers if not the citizens) Long-term po ang solusyon na gusto namin ni Pangulong Duterte dito (President Duterte and I want a long-term solution to this),” he explained.
Go’s version of the proposed pension reform law for military and other uniformed personnel, as indicated in Senate Bill (SB) 1419 which he filed in 2020, seeks to attain fiscal stability and sustainability of their pension system without prejudice to current pensioners and those in active service.
“Nais ko klaruhin — suportado ko ang pension reform para maiwasan na maging isang financial disaster ito in the long-run (I want to clarify — I support the pension reform in order to prevent it from becoming a financial disaster in the long-run).
Pero ayoko na bawasan o maapektuhan ang kasalukuyang pension ng mga nag-retiro na o ‘yung inaasahang pension ng mga naka active duty pa (However, I do not want the current pension of those who are already retired or those expected pension of those who are still in active duty to be deducted or affected),” he emphasized.
“’Yung reporma sa pension, magsimula dapat sa bagong pasok na sundalo para alam nila na may pagbabago sa pension bago pa sila magduty (The pension reform must start with the new entrant soldiers so they are aware that there is a change in the pension before they will go on duty). Huwag natin galawin ‘yung inaasahan or natatanggap na pension ng kasalukuyang sundalo. (Let us not touch the expected or the pension to be received of the present soldiers),” he added.
In line with this, Go emphasized that his bill aims to only affect new entrants and not those in active service or those who have already retired.
“Bago pa ako maging Senador, may lumapit na sa amin ni Pangulo na mga Master Sergeant noon upang ipaglaban na hindi maisama sa pension reform ang mga naka-active duty (Even before I became a senator, there were already Master Sergeants who approached and requested President Duterte and me not to include in the pension reform those who are still in active duty). Kaya ginawan natin ng paraan na huwag maimplementa iyon noon at mapag-aralan ng mabuti (That is the reason why we look for ways not to implement it then and have it well-studied),” he said.
Go, chairman of the Senate Health committee, expressed his opposition to other proposed versions of the MUP pension reform that have provisions considered detrimental to current pensioners and those in active duty.
He said that while there is a necessity to reform the military pension system, it should be done without compromising the expected benefits of those who are currently serving the military or those who are already receiving their pensions upon their retirement.