By Billy Begas
Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor has accused the House leadership led by Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco of removing P20 billion from the pension and gratuity fund allocated for uniformed personnel under the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
In his privilege speech, Defensor said President Rodrigo Duterte signed the 2021 national budget in December 2020 not knowing that the House of Representatives has slashed the budget.
“Ako po ay tumayo dahil hindi ko po masikmura ang situwasyon ng ating mga retiradong sundalo, mga pulis at iba pang sangay ng ating armadong sektor,” he said.
Duterte has promised to increase the pension and gratuity pay of uniformed personnel in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“I now ask the leadership of Speaker Lord Velasco, why this happened? Paano natin pinayagan na ang pensyon at gratuity fund ng ating mga pulis, ng ating mga sundalo, ang mga coast guard, bureau of fire at jail guards. Bakit natin pinakialaman ang dapat nilang tanggapin pag sila ay nagretiro at ang pension nila buwan-buwan ay para sa kanilang pamilya?”
Defensor called Budget and Management (DBM) Sec. Wendel Avisado to seek clarification and learned that he was not consulted on the reduction of the budget.
The DBM has proposed P172.9 billion for the pension and gratuity fund but Congress only approved P152 billion.
Defensor assumed that the fund was added to the budget of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) since it increased by P32 billion.
House Committee on Appropriations chairperson and ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap assumed responsibility but claimed that he disclosed it with the DBM.
Yap said they were told that the P20 billion will not be used this year to pay the pension and gratuity of retired uniformed personnel.
Defensor and Yap agreed that Congress should pass a supplemental budget to augment the pension and gratuity fund.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab said that the previous leadership of the House also made the same move and reduce the pension and gratuity fund by P70 billion.
Defensor said that he did not know what happened during the previous leadership of the House.
“Hindi ko po alam kung nag-usap sila (Congress and DBM) pero ang sigurado ko po, hindi nagrereklamo noon ang DBM. Ngayon nagrereklamo ang DBM dahil sa pagbawas sa budget ng pension and gratuity fund,” added Defensor.