Senator Chiz Escudero on Thursday sought to create a P20-billion trust fund for active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police who are either killed or wounded in the line of duty.
“The officers, men and women of the AFP and the PNP deserve nothing less than a reasonable and tangible recognition of their dedication and commitment to the country, especially their families who, when they are killed or wounded in action or operation, are somewhat left hollow both emotionally, spiritually and financially,” he said.
Escudero added that “given the sad state of our military and police in terms of compensation and benefits with regard to their sworn duty to protect and secure the State, preserve and maintain peace and order, it is imperative that we make comprehensive and institutional all reasonable assistance that may be accorded them by the State.
Escudero proposes Senate Bill No. 1491, or the Comprehensive Social Benefit Program of the Government, which envisions the institutionalization of the trust fund, which will be established and developed by the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
According to the senator, this will cover the necessities and basic needs of the families and dependents of soldiers, policemen, policewomen who are killed or wounded in legitimate operations sanctioned by the government.
The P20 billion, to be earmarked for the trust fund, will be used to finance five types of assistance: full scholarship, financial, shelter, health and medical care, and cost of living.
The trust fund will be implemented and managed by a board composed of the Office of the President, the DILG, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Finance, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Commission on Higher Education, the AFP and the PNP.
According to Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, the biggest chunk of the trust fund will go to the education of the children of military and police officers killed in action. He said children of a soldier or police officer killed while in the performance of duty will be given priority in any applicable law providing free tertiary education.
“The gallantry, bravery and heroism in making the ultimate sacrifice for the flag, freedom and democracy can never be understated. We should honor them according to what they truly deserve,” he said.
Earlier, Senator Sonny Angara called for the immediate passage of bills granting special financial assistance and benefits to uniformed and law enforcement personnel in the wake of intense firefights between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi City.
“As the siege by extremist groups continue to drag on in Marawi City, our brave soldiers need all the support they can get. It’s unfortunate that this conflict has cost the lives of many of our troops. Nakikiramay po tayo sa kanilang mga pamilya,” Angara said.
Angara is one of the authors of Senate Bill 1462 or the Uniformed and Law Enforcement Personnel Special Financial Assistance Act, and SB 1463 or the Uniformed and Law Enforcement Personnel Educational Assistance Act.Under SB 1462, a special financial assistance equivalent to the average six-month salary, including allowances and bonuses, will be provided to the families and beneficiaries of any personnel of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who is killed or permanently incapacitated while in the line of duty.
Surviving spouses or designated beneficiaries will be given priority in employment in government agencies and offices where their qualifications are fitted.
SB 1463, on the other hand, provides that all surviving children will automatically and without qualification be extended full scholarship from kindergarten to tertiary level.
Such scholarship privileges includes payment of tuition and miscellaneous fees, allowance for books and school supplies, and allowance for food and transportation.
Due to the slow delivery of benefits, the proposed measure further seeks to create a Dependents Welfare Office to expedite the grant of special financial assistance and benefits, which should be within three days from receipt of a written certification of the fact of death or permanent disability or incapacity.
If any personnel is injured or wounded in the performance of official duties, hospitalization expenses, including necessary medicines and medical equipment, will be shouldered by the government.