President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday called on Filipinos to emulate war veterans who willingly sacrificed their lives for the good of the country.
“Guided by the shining examples of our veterans, let us dedicate the change we have made possible along the straight path to our Filipino brothers and sisters who were not able to enjoy the benefits of our peace and prosperity,” Mr. Aquino said during the commemoration of the 71st Araw ng Kagitingan in Mt. Samat, Bataan.
“As the new generation of Filipinos, let us make a commitment: let us show that we are likewise ready to give more of ourselves and sacrifice to achieve widespread and meaningful change,” the President added.
Mr. Aquino said the government will continue to look after the welfare of veterans, including the distribution of a P1,700 total administrative disability pension on top of other benefits for veterans aged 70 years and above.
In January, the subsidy for patients in 599 public hospitals accredited by the Veterans Memorial Medical Center as provincial or regional extensions was also raised from P800 to P1,200 per day, he added.
“We know that neither pomp and circumstance nor the laying of wreaths against this monument can truly measure what our veterans have done for this country. Which is why, in addition to the tributes and commemorations we hold for the Filipinos who defended and looked after their nation and continue to do so, we in turn pledge to care for them and for their families,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said the government is focused on fulfilling the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Law signed by US President Barack Obama in 2009 to provide a one-time cash payment of $9,000 for non-US citizens and $15,000 for Filipino veterans with US citizenship.
As of January, $224 million has already been awarded to over 18,700 veterans for compensation approved under the law, the President said.
In his three years in office, President Aquino has not paid out the total administrative disability pension, with the Department of Budget and Management admitting that the government had “dormant accounts.”
The DBM added that the pension fund has remained unfunded for the last 10 years.
Although the pension fund was created in 1994, it has yet to be distributed because of budgetary restraints, said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
“Sadly for more than 10 years, the law has not been implemented, mainly due to budgetary constraints and partly to administrative inefficiencies, causing tremendous pecuniary losses to thousands of veterans and their beneficiaries, some of whom have died while waiting for the release of what supposedly are legally and justly entitled to receive,” Rodriguez said.
In 2011, the House approved a bill compelling the DBM to provide money for the pension fund, but the Senate has not acted on its counterpart bill, Rodriguez said.
While P3 billion in unprogrammed funds were earmarked in the 2010 budget hearings for the pension fund, the government did not have any additional revenue that year. With Christine F. Herrera