Tuesday, November 18, 2008, PDI, pageA3
By: Jocelyn R. Uy
AMID THE FINANCIAL SCANDALS SET OFF
by colleagues in the armed services, a group of
naval; officers with an eye for detail an a
reputations for grit is prudently weeding out
beneficiaries from the long list of military
pensioners who no longer deserve to be there.
In the first three months of the year alone,
the Armed Forces of the Philippines was able
to save over P120 million in taxpayer money
after some 4,100 beneficiaries were removed from
the pension rolls.
At the same time, legitimate pensioners
have started receiving their monthly
payments on time, a sign the government may be
slowly making a dent on its backlong of
pension arrears totaling P14.5 billion since 2000.
All this is thanks to the Philippine Navy's
Capt. Cornelio de la Cruz Jr., Lt. Commander
Brendo Casaclang, Commander Antonio Cantoria
and Lt. Maynard Cabungkal, the core group from
the AFP Finance Center that introduced the
plan in November last year that is effectively
cleansing the military pension rolls.
For the achievement, all four were accorded
the Outstanding Achievement Medal by the
Department of National Defense at Camp
Aguinaldo during the DND's 69th founding anniversary
"A pension is taxpayer money so we have
to do our part in making sure it ends up with
the rightful beneficiaries. This is the
hard-earned money of our soldiers too," said
De La Cruz, chief of the AFP Finance Center, in an
interview with the INQUIRER.
The pensions range from P4,800 to more
than P31,000 a month, depending on one's rank.
Initially the project entailed poring long
hours over lists of deceased soldiers buried
in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, cross-checking
these with records of the Philippine
Veterans Affairs Office and National Statistics Office,
said De La Cruz.
The operation also required them to scrutinize
marriage contracts and birth certificates
to make sure pensioners' widows and widowers had
not remarried and children receiving a pension were under 21.
The group sometimes went the extra
mile, setting off to pensioners' homes to
personally verify their eligibility.
Along the way, there were assurances the
project was going to work.
Inspecting the voluminous death records
on one occasion, they found out one beneficiary
had long been dead but money continued to be
deposited into his account until this grew to over P100,000.
The discovery allowed them to retrieve
the money, said De La Cruz.
The group also temporarily shifted the
mode of paying out the pensions from
automated teller machines to checks which had
to be personally claimed by the pensioners.
This way the beneficiaries' qualifications
could be thoroughly checked.
Once a pensioner had claimed his check,
he would receive the succeeding ones via ATM.
"When you put out the best carrots in
town, all the rabbits will come to you, so we
have to carefully validate them," said De La Cruz.
A military person should be at least 56
years old and have rendered at least 10
years of service in order to receive a
pension, said De La Cruz.
When a pensioners dies, the spouse
continues to receive the pension until he or she
remarries. Their children below 21 years of
age are legitimate beneficiaries.
The records of 70 percent of the 106,000
military pensioners across the country have
been validated, Casaclang said. The cleansing
group has been traveling from one
province to another since last year. Work now
awaits them in northern Luzon, they said.