Bong Go

Bong Go: ‘Pension reform must not be at the expense of retirees, those in active service’

May 16, 2023 People's Journal 283 views

DURING a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on National Defense regarding the proposed military pension reform on Monday, May 15, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go emphasized firmly the need for striking a balance between the welfare of the military and uniformed personnel and ensuring the country’s financial security.

In his manifestation, Go, who is Vice Chair of the said committee, emphasized the importance of recognizing the military and uniformed personnel’s unparalleled service in safeguarding the nation’s security.

“Buhay ang isinasakripisyo nila para mapanatili ang seguridad ng bansa. Iba po ang sakripisyo nila dahil buhay po ang nakataya dito,” said Go.

“Kahit isang boto lang ako dito, palagi kong ipaglalaban kung ano pong makakabuti sa mga nagseserbisyo sa bayan,” assured the senator.

He expressed his opposition to proposals that would adversely affect the current pension benefits being given to retirees and what are expected to be given to those in active service once they retire.

“Karamihan sa kanila ay may pinaglalaanan na ng pera, ‘yung iba diyan ay expecting na sa matatanggap nila once they retire. Binigay na natin sa kanila, yung iba nakaplano na, nangutang na, nakapag-loan na, nag-installment para sa future ng mga anak, nakaplano na lahat yan, tapos ngayon o-obligahin sila magcontribute. Huwag naman po sana,” urged Go.

“Huwag nating baguhin ang sistema sa kalagitnaan. Sa ibang bansa, tulad sa United Kingdom, hindi po inoobliga na magbigay ng mandatory contribution ang kanilang military,” he pointed out.

“Yung ikakaltas sa sundalo halos katumbas na yan ng isang sakong bigas na pwede nilang ipakain sa pamilya nila,” he further stressed.

If pension reforms are to be implemented to prevent a financial disaster in the long run, Go proposed that they should only apply to new entrants.

“Dahil ang mga new entrants, alam nila (ang mga) kondisyones, alam nila ang pinapasok nila, alam nila kung anong rules ang kanilang susundin. Let us spare the retired and active personnel bilang pagkilala sa sakripisyo na ginawa at ginagawa nila sa bayan. Konsuwelo na po nga para sa kanila,” he said.

Recognizing the importance of addressing the sustainability of the pension system, Go emphasized the need to avoid any measure that would unfairly burden or compromise the well-being of those who have dedicated their lives to serving the nation.

“Let me be clear, naiintindihan ko ang concerns ng ating mga finance managers, nanggaling din po ako sa Executive noon, talagang nababahala sila kapag kulang ang pondo,” said Go.

He continued, “Kapag nagkakaroon na po ng problema sa pondo, sila po ang inaatasan ng Presidente na maghanap ng pondo at saan kukunin ito… We all want to address the ballooning pension requirement and prevent a looming budget disaster. Pero para sa akin, huwag sana itong gawin at the expense of the military and all uniformed personnel na nagbubuwis ng buhay at nagsakripisyo,” he stressed.

During the hearing, two proposed Senate bills were discussed: Senate Bill No. 284 filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and SBN 1421 filed by Senator Ramon Revilla, Jr.

SBN 284 seeks to provide a unified system for the separation, retirement, and pension of military and uniformed personnel services in the country. On the other hand, SBN 1421 seeks to create a government-guaranteed insurance fund, managed by the Government Service Insurance System, to cover the insurance needs of new entrants to the uniformed services.

Meanwhile, Go also urged finding alternative sources of funding rather than burdening active service members with mandatory contributions or altering the pension benefits of retirees.

“Pwede naman po sana, ayusin natin ang pagkolekta ng buwis at siguruhin natin na walang mapunta sa korapsyon. Tanggalin natin ang korapsyon sa gobyerno. Siguraduhin na walang mga under the table. At paghusayin ang pagkolekta ng buwis,” said Go.

“I urge the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs to collect taxes and customs duties properly and more efficiently. Eliminating corruption in government should be enough to cover for the pension requirement,” he added.

“We can also impose higher taxes on luxury goods, dahil mayayaman naman po ang bumibili nyan. Pwede pong i-increase natin ang sin tax.

With this, we can also protect the health of our people,” he then suggested if the concern is raising more funds for the government.

The senator then highlighted the significant increase in the salaries of uniformed personnel during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

“Pinaghirapan natin ito noong 2017. Na-implement po ito noong 2018 sa tulong ng ating mga kasamahan sa Kongreso. Ako mismo po ay kasama doon at pinaghirapan natin ito na makumbinsi ang mga kasamahan natin sa Kongreso,” said Go.

“Ako po mismo ang inatasang makiusap sa mga mambabatas noon dahil iyan po ay ipinangako ni dating presidente Duterte. Natupad po ang kanyang ipinangako, kaya hindi po ako susuporta kung masasayang ang pinaghirapang dagdag-sahod na iyon. Huwag naman po tayo bigay-bawi. Pinasarap pa natin sila, ngayon babawiin natin,” he added.

Moreover, Go mentioned that some personnel may opt for early retirement due to concerns about potential changes in pension policies.

“Ako ang unang tututol kung mabawasan o maapektuhan ang mga benepisyo ng uniformed personnel at retirees. Ibigay natin parati kung ano po ang dapat para sa kanila, lalo na sa mga kababayan nating nagbubuwis ng buhay para tayo ay mabuhay ng ligtas at matiwasay,” he stressed.

Drawing from his continuing advocacy for healthcare workers’ welfare, Go highlighted the importance of promptly delivering the benefits owed to Filipinos who put their lives at stake to serve and protect the lives of others.

“Iyan ang aking parating stand at palagi kong ipaglalaban ang karapatan ng ating military at uniformed personnel. Katulad sa healthcare workers benefits, nagsalita ako noon dito sa Senado dahil delayed ang natatanggap na COVID-19 death at sickness benefits,” said Go.

“Matagal po nilang natanggap. Dapat nga po ihatid sa mga bahay nila yung mga benefits nila dahil nagluluksa ang mga namatayan. Ibigay natin what is due to them,” added the senator.

Ending his speech, Go appealed to the executive agencies and the Committee on National Defense involved in crafting the measure to carefully consider the impact of such proposed pension reforms.

“I appeal to our executive agencies and this Committee to study and evaluate the proposals carefully,” said Go.

“I believe our very able Chairman (Sen. Estrada), and, of course, Senator Bato dela Rosa, naiintindihan po niya ang sitwasyon ng ating mga uniformed personnel. (We) will do our best to find balance in this and will consider the welfare and livelihood of our men and women in uniform,” he concluded.

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