By Billy Begas
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday urged retired military and uniformed personnel (MUP) who have raised concerns about their 2018 pension differentials to be patient, as the government needs to prioritize funding for COVID-19 response.
Lorenzana made the statement after his courtesy call to Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco in the House of Representatives.
“Ito lang po ang paalala natin sa pensioners na nagde-demand na makuha na ‘yung arrears ng 2018 na kung pwede lang po sana ay maghintay lang tayo ng konting panahon dahil ‘yung pera kinain ng COVID at marami tayong pagkakagastusan dito. Bibili pa tayo ng vaccines so baka hindi kayanin,” said Lorenzana.
Lorenzana met Velasco amid the issue on the P20 billion reduction from the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) for retired uniformed personnel under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
The Department of Budget and Management had originally proposed P172.9 billion under the PGF to partially fund the payment of the 2018 pension differences for MUP. However, in the final version of the GAA, the amount was reduced to P152.9 billion.
Lorenzana believed “there’s no harm done” with the delay in the payment of 2018 pension differentials to retired MUP.
The defense chief said the payment of pension arrears “can wait,” as he called on the pensioners to do their share in helping government fight the pandemic simply by “becoming more patient.”
“The government is not backing away from its obligation at tulong lang natin sa gobyerno na huwag muna natin silang pilitin na hindi kaya,” Lorenzana said. “Huwag nating pilitin ang gobyerno na mangutang para ibayad sa inyo. Anyway, dinoble naman ang pension ninyo since 2018, except ‘yung four months—January to April—so palagay ko hindi kayo mahihirapan.”
Lorenzana also pointed out that those waiting for arrears will not go into poverty due to the delayed payment.
“Kung hindi nyo makuha ‘yung arrears nyo na four months ay maghihirap kayo? Hindi naman siguro. Kasi hindi naman tumigil ang pension nyo, hindi naman nababawasan,” he added.