Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has expressed his support for the proposed 2021 P283.256 billion budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) and its attached agencies.
This also include the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Government Arsenal, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, National Defense College of the Philippines and the Office of Civil Defense.
“Sir, physically present po ako to show my full support to DND and to the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Go remarked when he was acknowledged during the committee hearing chaired by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson.
In his manifestation, Go said that the country’s military and uniformed personnel (MUP) perform a vital task of ensuring the nation’s peace and security.
DND’s attached agencies include the Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND), Government Arsenal, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)
“Even the Constitution recognizes the invaluable role of the military and our uniformed personnel in protecting the nation and its citizens from threats, both within and outside the country’s borders,” Go said, citing the recent success of the military in nabbing the three suspected suicide bombers in Barangay San Raymundo in Jolo, Sulu.
“This is only one of the many personal sacrifices that our military personnel have to make in order to secure our lives, prevent unimaginable death of innocent civilians and destruction of property. They are important frontliners of our nation. My salute to all of you,” he added.
For his part, the senator from Davao mentioned that he has vowed to extend full support to our military and uniformed personnel.
“One of his first directives as President (Duterte) was to double the compensation of the military and uniformed personnel in recognition of their valiant efforts to protect and secure our country,” Go said.
“When I was still with the Executive, I was the one who continuously followed up and made sure that the directive of the President would come to fruition. Thank you also to our Chairman, Sen. Lacson, sa suporta po ditto (for his support).” he added.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, also assured that as a legislator, he would continue to fight for the devoted military and uniformed personnel. He shared that he has filed Senate Bill 393 which aims to provide free legal assistance to police and military officers for cases related to the fulfillment of their duties.
When enacted, any officer or enlisted personnel of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) who is facing before the prosecutor’s office, court, administrative or any competent body, any charge arising from an incident or incidents related to the performance of official duty shall be entitled to free legal assistance.
He also filed Senate Bill 1419 which aims to maintain financial flexibility on the part of the government while also ensuring that the State can and will continue to provide adequate benefits and remuneration to men and women in uniform.
“Matagal nang kailangan po ang pension reform. Mas malaki ang binabayaran ng gobyerno para sa mga retirees kaysa sa mga sundalong in active service. This is an impending financial disaster na magko-compromise sa fiscal stability natin,” Go warned, pushing for the swift passage of the measure. (We really need this pension reform. The government is paying more for the retirees than the soldiers in the active service.)
“Noong 2019, merong mga sergeant majors na lumapit sa amin ni Pangulong Duterte. Nakiusap sila na huwag munang i-implementa dahil marami sa kanila ang gusto mag-retire at makuha ang mga benepisyo nila. Inilapit ko po ito kay Pangulo at pinagbigyan naman sila ni Pangulo,” he explained further. (In 2019, there are sergeant majors who approached President Duterte. They pleaded that it should not be implemented because there are many who want to retire and would get their retirement benefits. I referred this to the President and he gave an affirmative reply.)
“Kaya lang, kung hahayaan lang natin ito, magba-balloon na ang fiscal impact ng pension dahil sa old pension system. Hindi ito magiging sustainable in the long run. Balansehin rin natin,” he added. (But if we allow this to continue, the amount of pension would balloon and would have a fiscal impact on the old pension system. This will not be sustainable in the long run. We must balance this.)
Go mentioned that his proposed measure is a win-win solution for the government and members of the military, ensuring the financial stability of the country while giving soldiers what is due them.
“Kaya nagkaroon ng compromise, isang win-win solution na nakasaad sa aking Senate Bill 1419. Magkakaroon ng MUP pension reform pero applicable lang ito sa mga new entrants. Para lang ito sa papasok pa lang sa active service matapos maging effective ang batas na ito,” Go clarified. (This led to a compromise, a win-win solution as envisioned in Senate Bill 1419, There will be an MUP pension reform but it will be applicable to new entrants. The bill will apply to new entrants.)
According to Go, both the Finance and Budget departments have already expressed their support to the pension reform.
“It is our task in the Legislature to listen to the soldiers, the retirees, the future soldiers, and everyone else who will be affected by this. The President and I will support the will of the majority. We will listen, as we always have. Bukas po ang aming opisina sa lahat ng gusto magsalita,” he said. (Our office is open to all who want to talk.)
During the deliberations, Go asked for updates regarding the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly regarding the pending projects for Horizon One, the first phase of the modernization.
AFP Chief General Gilbert Gapay responded, saying that most projects pertaining to equipment were already completed.
However, some projects on Bases Developments and on Doctrines Development and Human Resources Development still need to be finished.
Go also asked how many members of the military have tested positive for COVID-19 and the steps the DND is implementing to assist them.
Gapay said that there were a total of 3,486 confirmed cases of infection but only 300 are active COVID-19 cases.