Finger-pointing as solons question reduced budget for military, police pension | Inquirer News
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Finger-pointing as solons question reduced budget for military, police pension

/ 06:43 PM March 01, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A debate that lasted for nearly three hours transpired at the House of Representatives on Monday over the budget for the pension of retired military and police personnel.

During Monday’s plenary session, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor pointed out that in crafting the national budget for 2021, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) proposed a P172.9 billion funding under the pension and gratuity fund (PGF) to partially fund the payment of the 2018 pension differentials for military and uniformed personnel.

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However, this proposed funding was “significantly reduced” to P152.9 billion.

“The PGF was significantly reduced to P152.9 billion or a difference of P20 billion when the General Appropriations Act [of 2021] was passed which largely affected the payment of the 2018 pension differentials,” Defensor said.

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“I now ask the leadership of the House, Mr. Speaker Lord Velasco, why did this happen? Paano natin pinayagan na ang pensyon at gratuity fund ng ating mga pulis, ng ating mga sundalo, ang mga Coast Guard, ang mga taga Bureau of Fire Protection at mga jailguards ay nabawasan?” the lawmaker added.

It was at this point that Defensor announced that he was withdrawing his affirmative vote on the 2021 national budget out of “shame.”

“Ako ay nahihiya sa ating mga sundalo at sa ating kapulisan at sa iba pang unipormadong mangagagwa. At dahil dito, binabawi ko ang boto ko sa pondo o sa GAA of 2021,” Defensor said.

“It might be symbolic. It might not have an effect but it is a manifestation of my sentiment of how we amended and manipulated the budget that is to the detriment of our military and uniformed personnel,” the lawmaker added.

Budget was also cut in 2020

House appropriations committee chairperson Eric Yap confirmed there was indeed a P20 billion cut in the PGF under the 2021 budget.

He said the budget cut was used to help in the country’s coronavirus measures such as procurement of vaccines and supplies, among others.

Yap also said that budget cuts were not only implemented on the PGF but also projects of other government departments to help aid in the country’s coronavirus response measures.

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Nonetheless, Yap said that in the 2020 budget, when he was not yet the appropriations panel chair, there was also a P70 billion budget cut under the PGF.

This 2020 budget cut, Yap said, was the reason for the inadequate pension fund.

“Pero ‘yung P70 billion na tinanggal noong last year na wala pa ako dito, ay wala pang COVID noon. Kaya hindi ko alam ‘yung P70 billion na yun na tinanggal sa pension kung saan dinala yun,” Yap said.

Later in his speech, Yap added: “Ngayon po babalikan ko lang  po ulit ang pension na P20 billion. Ang gusto ko lang po sabihin kay Cong Defensor na kaya po kinapos ang pension dahil sa tinanggal na P70 biliyon para sa 2020 budget na di po ako ang chairman ng appropriations noon.”

Former House leaders involved?

Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab, who was the appropriations panel chair during the crafting of the 2020 national budget, said the bicameral conference committee report for that budget was finalized at the office of then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Ungab also mentioned Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte who, at that time, was the Deputy Speaker for Finance.

Ungab likewise said that back at the crafting of the 2020 national budget, House and Senate leaders had an agreement to “exchange data” on the amendments of both chambers to the bicameral conference committee report.

“After the exchange, mayroon pa rin silang ginawang changes… Hindi ako ang nag-finalize nito. Sila ang gumawa nito,” Ungab said.

“Congressman Yap, hindi po ako ang nagtanggal niyan. Sila ang gumawa niyan, sila ni Congressman LRay Villafuerte ang nag-finalize,” he added.

In response to Ungab, Villafuerte said the bicameral conference committee is headed by the appropriations committee chairperson of the House and the finance committee chairperson of the Senate. This means that they are the ones who signed the bicameral conference committee report for the 2020 budget.

“With regard to [2020], si Chairman Ungab ang pumirma niyan… My question for Congressman Defensor is, do you think the seasoned, veteran experienced Chairman Ungab will sign something if he feels there’s an irregularity in the budget?” Villafuerte said.

“That’s my question because it’s only now that I’m hearing Chairman Ungab complain about irregularities where in fact, he signed it. We have not heard anything from him from 2020 until 2021 and now my name and former Speaker Cayetano is being dragged,” he added.

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TAGS: 2020 budget, budget, House of Representatives, pension
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