December 5, 2023

Finance Secretary and former Central Bank Governor Benjamin Diokno must be the luckiest guy in this generation. says he is the highest paid government official anew with an annual income of P41.8 million.
Mahina ako sa Math, but isn’t that P3,416,666.66 a month? Citing the Commission on Audit’s 2021 Report on Salaries and Allowances, Diokno’s salaries and allowances increased by 111 percent from P19.79M in 2020. If and when he retires, his pension will be based on his last pay and I will leave the Math to you.
We have homegrown soldiers and guerrillas who helped the Allied Forces in liberating the Cordillera from the Japanese during World War II, and in 2021 only 69 of them are alive.
Of the surviving war veterans, 23 are centenarians, including the oldest, 103-year-old Sixta Pavila. The youngest living veteran is 98 years old, as per the association of veterans’ sons and daughters.
These veterans’ pensions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines or Philippine National Police are now the target of Diokno in his effort to address the budget deficit. He forgot that during the term of then President Rodrigo Duterte, he doubled or even tripled their peso-package as his safeguard against military adventurism.
Duterte, in all his wisdom, did a balancing act between satisfying parochial interests by means of pensions and promotions and even filling civilian positions with retired officers. He doubled the soldiers’ salaries on Jan. 1, 2018, thus automatically, retiree pensions went up commensurately.
Under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Diokno now says his former boss was wrong as the pensions are disproportionate to other civil employees. He has other issues like soldiers enjoy pensions earlier (as early as age 40) and longer (claiming soldiers survive up to 90 years old) and yet they have no personal contribution to the budget, as their pension is paid solely by us, unlike other government employees as well as workers in the private sector. Their pension is funded 100 percent by the State. He said this can lead to a budget deficit or worse, fiscal collapse if not stopped. He wants to require soldiers to contribute to the pension fund.
Another bright idea to alleviate the situation is to remove the automatic indexation of the pension of retired military personnel to the salary of active personnel with the same rank (‘yung sweldo ng active general na P200,000 a month is the same as a retired general and if increased, they both increase.) He also desires to stop optional retirement (allowed after 20 years of service) until military personnel turn 57 years old.
Another issue is that apart from the huge amounts for retired officers, the pension is passed on to the spouse in case of the soldier’s death. If the spouse is much younger, the pension payments for one soldier can last over 50 years. So if a 90-year-old pensioner remarries a 20-year-old lady, imagine the lifespan of the young spouse who will receive the survivor’s pension based on active rate.
While we cannot totally blame Diokno in doing his best to keep the peso afloat, the problem is his focus only on the military while other departments like the Department of Justice, Public Attorney’s Office, retired justices and judges of the courts, and other government agencies have automatic pension indexation.
Even the pension packages of commissioners of constitutional bodies like the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Elections are as hefty as ever, all drawn from the annual General Appropriations Act.
Even a first year Law student knows that this violates the equal protection clause of the constitution and if passed into law would be thumbed down by the Supreme Court for being a class legislation.
Thus, the military and police, active and retired are up in arms, but hopefully the President will do something about it as he said so last Monday in Bataan, otherwise his father who was also a war veteran would roll in his grave and the saying “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” would no longer be just that.