Funds for Filipino WWII vets' benefits
The commitment of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that it will secure the release of some arrears due to Filipino World War II (WWII) veterans was secured by Senator Richard J. Gordon.
Gordon, who was instrumental in the release of the Filipino WWII veterans' benefits from the United States (US) government, said that when the benefits of the veterans are not given, it creates a notion that the country is disrespectful of the sacrifices the Filipino warriors had done for the nation.
"I have known this before but I did not realize it was of that magnitude. We have not been paying our veterans their administrative pensions since 1994. It has now ballooned to P25,235,339,155," the senator stressed.
"No country can find its way clear in trying to get respect from other countries, let alone our own veterans, if it does not take care of the people who fought for the freedom of this country," he added.
Gordon explained that aside from the Old Age Retirement Pension, which amounts to P5,000 a month, Filipino WWII veterans are also entitled to additional benefits under Republic Act (RA) 7696 or the Total Administrative Disability.
RA 7696 has been effective since April 9, 1994. A Filipino World War II veteran, with or without a disability, upon reaching the age of 70 is deemed totally disabled and shall receive P1,700 plus P500 for the spouse and P500 for each unmarried minor child. This provision of the law has never been implemented due to budgetary constraints.
During the Senate's budget deliberations, DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. promised to find sources of funds to pay some of the amount in arrears and send Gordon a letter containing said promise which would secure the release of a portion of the pension in arrears.
"The amount of P1,700 may not be much for us, but to an 80-year-old sickly veteran, to add another P1,700 may be crucial to him for extra medicines," said Gordon, who authored RA 9499 that allowed Filipino veterans to continue receiving pensions and benefits from the Philippine government without rescinding similar benefits from the US government.
"I really find it very excruciating that this country cannot pay its veterans. That will be part of the debt of our grandchildren already. Any self-respecting country should really try and respect the war veterans who fought hard. We have to make an effort to at least take care of that historical aspect," he added.