They struggled and fought for our independence but more than 50 years after World War II, many of our war veterans are still not receiving adequate assistance from the government. Below is an article I wrote for Veterans Week, as well as a video I took and edited using our office-issued iPhone 6 (mobile journalism at work).
Filipino veterans’ plea: increase our P5k monthly pension
By Kristine Angeli Sabillo
BATAAN, Philippines – Dioscoro Valenzuela was a sergeant in the Philippine Commonwealth Army when World War II erupted.
Suffering from an illness and fearing execution, he escaped the infamous 1942 Bataan death march, which resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 soldiers and guerrillas, by fleeing with two other comrades.
He said they decided to escape after seeing how the Japanese treated their fallen comrades. Many of those injured and sick were beaten up and killed.
Just as they were being rounded up along the road by Japanese soldiers, Valenzuela said he and his companions ran back to the mountains. They scaled the mountain slopes by clinging on to rope-like vines.
After their ordeal, Valenzuela managed to return to his hometown in Bulacan with the help of a group of civilians they encountered along the way.
The 95-year old veteran laughed as he recalled how scared he was when they made him ride a small boat.
“Hindi ako marunong lumangoy (I didn’t know how to swim)!” said the retired officer, who survived a war that killed more than a million Filipinos.
For veterans like Valenzuela, however, the struggle for due benefits is not yet over.
Valenzuela receives P6,700 per month from the Philippine government – P5,000 worth of old age pension and P1,700 worth of administrative disability pension.
“Kulang pa nga sa gamot ko yun eh.. Sa gamot lang, 12 tablets a day, iba-iba. May pang blood pressure, sugar, sa puso, diabetes. Kulang pa yun,” he said as he showed off a plastic container filled with tablets.
(That’s not even enough for my medication. I have to take 12 different tablets a day. There’s one for blood pressure, sugar level, the heart, diabetes. That’s not enough.)
Valenzuela, who attended the 73rd anniversary of the Day of Valor in Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan, said he is hoping for the passage of bills benefiting war veterans.
“Maraming resolution sa Congress, sa Senate, na pabor sa amin. Pero di pa naaaprubahan. Yung aming P5000 na pension gagawin daw P10,000 or P20,000. Yung burial na P10,000 gagawin daw P20,000,” he said.
(There are a lot of resolutions in Congress and Senate that are beneficial to us. Our P5000 pension is said to be raised to P10,000 or P20,000. Our burial benefit of P10,000 is said to be made P20,000.)
Currently, there are four bills in Congress seeking to increase the old age pension of veterans to P10,000. However, they have yet to be approved despite similar measures being deliberated on by lawmakers for more than two decades.
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) said it is pushing to increase old age pension to P20,000, especially for senior veterans or those who served during the World War II and the Korean and Vietnam war but have not been receiving retirement pension from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Of the pensioners being managed by the PVAO, 142,044 are receiving old age monthly pension of P5,000. Of that number, only 12,297 are World War II veterans. More than 50,000 are surviving spouses and the rest are post-World War II pensioners.
Valenzuela said he also hopes the widows of war veterans would receive more.
“Nagsakripisyo din ang mga yan. Yung iba may sakit din (They have sacrificed a lot. The others are also sickly),” he said.
In a media release, the PVAO said that among the “veterans’ wish list” is the rationalization of disability pension rates.
“Since 1994, the amount of Disability Pension ranging from P1,000 to P1,700 depending on the rate, has not been increased despite serious economic downturns in recent years,” it said.
PVAO added that the amount is no longer enough to cover the basic needs of veterans. It is proposing that the amount be increased to as much as P10,000.
A number of the veterans and surviving spouses who attended the ceremonies in Bataan on Thursday said they have not received any pension or benefit from the government. Nevertheless, they have been consistently attending the Day of Valor rites as Mt. Samat. One widow said she was looking forward to the entertainment, which included children participating in song and dance presentations.
In his speech, President Benigno Aquino III said his administration has focused on good governance to improve and expand the benefits of war veterans.
He said the government has already improved its revalidation program, which ensures that only “legitimate veterans” receive full benefits.
“The money set aside for you now goes directly to you. In fact, as of March 2015, the number of pension accounts of living veterans and of dependents of injured or deceased veterans handled by the PVAO has increased to 198,169,” he added.
Aquino said 15,571 dependents are also receiving educational assistance while 8,760 veterans and their dependents have availed of funds allotted for healthcare.
“The state is taking care of our veterans,” he said during the Day of Valor, which coincides with the Philippine Veterans Week.
Meanwhile, Valenzuela, who now uses a cane to support himself, said he is looking forward to returning to Mt. Samat next year.
“Sa awa ng Diyos, [sana makapunta] pa tayo sa isa pang April 9 (With the grace of God, I hope to attend another April 9 event,” he said.
READ the published article at: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/684486/filipino-veterans-plea-increase-our-p5k-monthly-pension