Congressman files bill that would sell state property to settle unpaid benefits

Manila Times, Philippines

THE government owes war veterans and military retirees P42 billion in benefits but is at a loss over how to raise the amount.


A congressman from Batangas believes he knows where to get the money.


Rep. Hermilando I. Mandanas of the Second District of Batangas says proceeds from the development, lease or use of state properties can be tapped to war veterans and retirees.


Mandanas has in fact asked Congress to pass a bill allowing the earnings from the properties allocated for the veterans and retirees, many of whom have not been paid for the past 15 years.


The properties include the former site of the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office on Arro­ceros Street in Ermita, Manila, the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, the Taguig Industrial Estates and the properties given by the Japanese government to the Philippine government under the Reparations Agreement, including the Roppongi, Nampeidai and Fujimi properties in Tokyo and the Naniwacho and Obanoyama properties in Kobe.


He filed House Bill 5347 amending for the purpose Executive Order 323.


The country is celebrating Veterans Week from April 6 to 12.


Mandanas lamented that the national government has been unable to provide sufficient compensation and assistance to war veterans and military retirees despite a constitutional provision requiring the state to “provide immediate and adequate care, benefits and other forms of assistance to war veterans and veterans of military campaigns, their surviving spouses and orphans.”


“In this way the national government would be able to fulfill its mandate of rewarding the beneficiaries without affecting the national budget,” Manda­nas said.


‘Deplorable situation’


“The present situation is deplorable,” Mandanas said. “Veterans risked their lives during World War II, defending the country, while military retirees have made possible the people’s enjoyment of the blessings of democracy as they battled the enemies of the State.


“Surviving veterans are in their twilight years, and it would not be long before they pass on from this world. Yet the inability of the national government to pay benefits to veterans and military retirees is hardly commensurate with their personal sacrifices,” he said.


If the benefits remain unpaid, “future national budgets might never be able to catch up with the benefits due veterans and military retirees, as payables pile up,” he said.


P100-billion payables


“In a few years, payables to the beneficiaries will escalate to more than P100 billion, making it extremely difficult for the national government to balance its budget,” Mandanas said.


The amount has accumulated owing to annual inadequacies in the appropriations for the veterans and military retirees.


Mandanas said the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office of the Department of National Defense reported that in 2004 alone, the shortfall was P4 billion and in 2005, between P4 billion and P5 billion.

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