“There are people in both the military and police who are anxiously waiting for the final outcome so they can finally decide whether to stay or retire”
Just when everyone was beginning to think a deal has been reached between the House of Representatives and the DOF with regard to MUP pension reforms, Finance Secretary Ben Diokno just poured cold water on the Bill being proposed by the House.
He believes the House solution does not go far enough in averting a looming financial catastrophe due to the unsustainable MUP pension benefits.
He is sticking with his original demand there must be mandatory contribution by everyone including those already in the service and no automatic indexation.
To him, these two issues are non-negotiable.
He thinks he can strike a better deal in the Senate where some Senators are apparently sympathetic to his advocacy.
As he said himself, the pension debate is far from over. By the looks of it, he has taken this as a personal crusade.
Trouble is, he picked the country’s uniformed services as his bogeyman. Let us hope, however, that there is not more to this than meets the eye.
This is because after the House Committee passed its pension reform bill, the Secretary remarked in an interview he does not believe the pensions being received by MUP retired personnel are pensions because they never contributed towards their retirement benefits.
Is he saying these benefits are not deserved? That was a shocking statement if he was quoted correctly – especially coming from him.
In all the brouhaha about MUP pensions, never did DOF say whether we are the only country paying our retired uniformed service personnel out of the national budget.
Never did they mention either if we are the only country that does not require its MUPs to contribute towards their retirement.
No comparison with other countries, at least in the ASEAN region, has been made public to see if we are the only country pampering its uniformed personnel with lavish retirement benefits.
This is important because I tried to look at other countries doing what they want to do here and I cannot find any.
Almost all countries I have come across pay MUP retirement benefits from their national budgets.
That is simply the way it is done in almost all countries. What I found out instead is that, compared to other countries in the region, we are almost at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to benefits.
For Secretary Diokno to blame the MUP pension benefits for the burden on the country’s financial resources is basically admitting the economic teams that have managed the country’s economy all these years have been utter failures.
If only these brilliant economists managed our economy well, we should not be having all these economic problems and we would all be a lot richer instead of being poor.
The good Secretary’s economic team should instead focus its attention on growing the economy so that the percentage of funds supporting MUP pension benefits will become smaller every year in relation to our total financial resources.
As it is, this is the only country in the region complaining about pension benefits being paid to its retired police and military veterans.
The good Secretary may not realize it but after retirement it is only the pension benefits that will sustain veterans in their twilight years.
Maintenance medicine alone is very expensive, not to mention if a retiree has existing medical conditions or is in need of hospitalization.
There is actually only one military veteran’s hospital in the country and none for the police. After retirement, veterans are basically left to fend for themselves.
The Bill that just left the House is a middle of the road solution.
Not all sides will be getting what they want but is a good start for a possible compromise and, more importantly, it will delay the so-called fiscal collapse giving the government a better wiggle room to solve the problem.
The good Secretary, however, is not satisfied and is still pushing for his original demand.
The hardline position of Secretary Diokno, however, is mystifying considering the dooms day scenario he is painting is not going to happen next year or the next but several years down the road.
By the time it happens. if ever, he would have been retired. By that time also as the government itself has been bragging, the size of our economy would have gone up to a trillion dollars which will give the government more flexibility to confront the financial problem.
Secretary Diokno should, therefore, not insist on solving this MUP pension problem all at once.
He should be satisfied in being able to provide the right direction for a sustained reform process. Whether he agrees or not, prudence dictates it is better to proceed slowly on this issue due to the prevailing regional geopolitical situation that the country is navigating carefully.
He should also have faith in the ability of the succeeding generation of economic managers to be able to do their job and maybe even do it better than past economic teams.
Let us hope, therefore, the good Secretary can still be persuaded to be more flexible and accept a compromise solution.
Since the ball is now in the Senate, it will be up to the Senators whether to side with the DOF formula or accept the House proposal which was spearheaded by Congressman Joey Salceda who also knows a lot about finances.
The Senate should now be able move faster without any more delays and come out with its own version so that a new retirement law can finally be signed.
This is because there are people in both the military and police who are anxiously waiting for the final outcome so they can finally decide whether to stay or retire.