MANILA, Philippines – Over P17.89 billion ($400 million) in unpaid benefits and pension differentials were ordered paid to retired military officers who are members of the Conference-Assembly for Unity and Solidarity of Association of Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirees and Pensioners – National Coordinating Council (CAUSA-AFPRP-NCC).
In a Commission on Audit (COA) decision released on Friday, May 8, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were ordered to make an alpha list of the military pensioners supposed to receive their benefits as early as 15 years ago.
The government owed the pensioners P14.207 billion ($320 million) from 2000 to 2008 and P3.684 billion ($80 million) accumulated from 2009 to 2012.
COA cited a collective failure on the part of the legislative and executive branches of government for the unpaid differentials starting 2000 to 2012 to AFP retirees.
"The responsibility to ensure that they receive whatever is due them does not lie upon the DND and AFP alone, but also that of the Office of the President, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Congress," read the COA decision.
In their defense, the DND and AFP argued before COA that it was Congress' lack of appropriation for the retirees that caused the delay in the payment of benefits for the military pensioners.
The COA said the military's budget proposal for each fiscal year should then reflect such pensioners' benefits.
The COA said "AFP retirees, pensioners and beneficiaries were left to linger inasmuch as their requests for payment of arrearages went unheeded and the same remained unpaid."
Following the decision, the DND and the AFP would have to identify and list all retirees due the pension differentials and submit it to the DBM and the AFP auditor.
While the money claim by the military retirees was granted by COA, it decided against granting their request for payment of their attorneys' fees totalling around P4.47 billion ($100 million) incurred during the claim.
COA said the "petitioner's prayer for the award of expenses and attorney’s fees cannot be sustained considering that it is beyond this Commission’s mandate, not being a regular court of justice, to grant the same." – Rappler.com