Senators question lower budget for soldiers' pensions

By Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2013 05:07 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2013 01:07 AM

MANILA - The Department of National Defense (DND) is proposing a budget of P121 billion for 2014, higher by 0.97% vs last year's budget of P120 billion.

The increase will go to Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses, which comprise around 16% of the budget. This is due to inflationary considerations, additional aircraft maintenance and the targeted increase in small arms arsenal.

The proposed allocation had a lower allocation for pensions though despite the shortfall of P1.2 billion. Pensions have been ballooning and comprise 32% of the DND's budget, the second biggest allocation next to personnel services.

During President Aquino's last State of the Nation Address, he mentioned the need to pass a law that would remove the provision allowing the indexation or automatic adjustment of pensions based on salary increases.

At the same time, AFP Vice Cief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alan Luga said, the Department of Budget and Management has been performing a "cleansing" program to reconcile their list of pensioners with that of DBM.

The cleansed list has brought down the number of eligible pensioners, which also brought down the required budget.

However, the shortfall remained due to arrears in pension, brought about by the recent increases in pay of uniformed men.

Senators Loren Legarda and Cynthia Villar had to clarify this part of the budget in particular, to make sure that no pension is being withheld from any legitimate pensioner, especially now that soldiers and other uniformed men are dying in the daily clashes with the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City.

Senator Villar noted the government's resolution of the crisis is slow but understandable since there are hostages at risk.

She also sees nothing wrong with President Aquino's presence on the ground since she believes this is the President's way of showing support for the troops.