Over P50 billion of the P405.6-billion Bayanihan 3 bill, which aims to provide cash assistance to millions of Filipinos amid the pandemic, has been allotted for the payment of the unpaid pension of police, military, and other uniformed personnel.
Under the Bayanihan to Arise As One Act or Bayanihan 3 substitute bill, a total of P54.6 billion is proposed to be released as pension funds in three phases:
The provision stands out because lawmakers have touted Bayanihan 3 as a measure that would focus on giving assistance to poor and disenfranchised Filipinos, on top of giving out P1,000 each to all 100 million Filipinos.
The provision may also be seen as redundant as Speaker Lord Allan Velasco already filed House Bill No. 9149, which seeks to add the same allotment of P54.6 billion for uniformed personnel's pension, in the 2021 budget.
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, May 4, Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo, one of the co-authors of the bill, said the Department of Budget and Management asked for the specific fund allotment.
Quimbo said the bill only seeks to restore the pension budget that was slashed during budget deliberations in 2020. (READ: P20 billion slashed from pension fund reignites Velasco, Cayetano allies' feud)
"We need to restore that because we owe that to soldiers who have retired. We cannot avoid that. We need to pay it, so we need to put it there (in the bill)," Quimbo said.
Quimbo also framed the allocation as a "morale booster" for the uniformed personnel who have served as frontliners during the pandemic.
"If you're a soldier and as a frontliner, you know that the government takes care of you even after retirement, that is a big morale booster. I think it is still related to COVID response in that way," Quimbo added.
The committees on ways and means, economic affairs, and social services have approved the Bayanihan 3 substitute bill has been. Proponents of the bill, including Velasco, want the House to tackle the proposal at plenary when Congress resumes session on May 17. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.