HomeCommentaryCorruption, not soldiers’ pensions will cause Diokno’s ‘fiscal collapse’

Corruption, not soldiers’ pensions will cause Diokno’s ‘fiscal collapse’

Finance Secretary Ben Diokno demonizes retirement pensions of military and other uniformed personnel (MUP). But he ignores the vilest government plague – corruption.

He derides the pensions as a “fiscal cliff” from which the country is falling. He babbles “fiscal collapse”, as if pensions are destructive. He says it’s “ballooning”, as if about to burst. 

Sidekick Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman adds that the amount can be better used for social projects, implying that veterans are depriving the poor.

Then he bloats figures. He lets Pangandaman claim that MUP pensions total P230 billion this year. In the same breath she says it’s P273 billion including retirement gratuity and leave credits. 

Yet companies and agencies normally pay gratuities and leaves, after which retirees become GSIS or SSS pensioners.

Diokno’s Department of Finance has another MUP pension record: P214 billion in 2023, P164 billion in 2022, P160 billion in 2021, P105 billion in 2020, P102 billion in 2019.

Three differing “official” figures are unreliable. Credible is P128.7 billion that retired admiral Ariston delos Reyes culled from the 2023 General Appropriations Act. 

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A mathematician, Delos Reyes respects numbers as an exact science. PMA 1971 classmates, ex-senators Ping Lacson and Greg Honasan, helped his research.

The P128.7 billion is only 2.3 percent of the P5.2-trillion national budget for 2023, Delos Reyes computes. Since MUPs have no mutual provident fund like SSS or GSIS, the national government appropriates yearly pensions for the 138,000 retirees. 

MUPs are soldiers, policemen, coastguards, firemen, mappers, prison guards.

Diokno calls MUP pensions “the elephant in the room”. Yet officials play blind to the burgeoning national debt, former Malacañang political adviser Ronald Llamas points up.

That debt is P14.1 trillion as of June 30. Government is spending more than it collects and thus borrows. Yet for what do high officials spend? Corruption and ineptitude eat up one-fifth of the multi-trillion annual budget, the World Bank says.

That one-fifth this year alone is more than P1 trillion. Over the next five years it can reach P6 trillion. That, not MUP pensions, will collapse the economy. 


(1) National and local officials take 42-percent kickback from infrastructure works. That’s P428.4 billion of this year’s P1.02 trillion for roads, ports, telecoms – three-and-a-half years’ MUP pensions.

(2) Not content with kickbacks, those politicos also act as contractors and suppliers, Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong laments. The crooks take another 15-percent contractors’/suppliers’ markup, or P153 billion of P1.02 trillion. More than the MUP pensions this year.

(3) With Diokno among economic managers, the past admin borrowed P49.5 billion ($900 million) from World Bank and Asian Development Bank to combat Covid-19. It wasted P42 billion on pricey but faulty pandemic supplies. P12.5 billion went to Pharmally of a Chinese presidential adviser.

Involved were three presidential lawyer-pals whom Diokno appointed to the Procurement Service-Dept. of Budget and Management. P42 billion could’ve funded three months’ MUP pensions.

(4) Flood controls are the favorite pork barrels of political dynasts in Congress. This 2023 it’s P183 billion, slightly higher than in previous years. They pocket those in full since rivers/lake dredging is unmeasured. P183 billion can pay 15 months’ MUP pensions.

In 2019 House Majority Leader Rolly Andaya accused then-budget chief Diokno of inserting P332-billion flood controls in three years’ national budgets. P385 million went to a Bicol town that, state engineers aver, doesn’t flood. The town mayor is stepfather of Diokno’s son-in-law.

Diokno disavowed knowledge of the stepfather-mayor and dared Andaya (now deceased) to file charges. That P332 billion could’ve funded three years’ MUP pensions.

(5) The “government-sponsored cartel”, that Sen. Risa Hontiveros exposed, profiteered P19.8 billion. They bought 440,000 tons of Thai sugar for P11 billion then sold at P30.8 billion. P19.8 billion could’ve paid two months’ MUP pensions.

(6) The past admin borrowed P12.2 billion from China to build a 72-meter-high dam in Quezon mountains. It displaces 6,000 Dumagat tribe folk and threatens to flood three towns below. All 110 million Filipinos will repay that loan.

Yet a seven-meter-high weir by a Japanese constructor would’ve cost four times less, to be charged to Greater Manila water consumers. That wasted P12.2 billion could’ve paid two months’ MUP pensions.

(7) Worst is in Customs. Every year crooks allow contraband in 1.58 million 40-foot and 790,000 20-foot cargo containers. Average grease money per container is P100,000, or P237 billion total per year. DOF insiders know that the highest officials partake of the loot. Government loses five times more in taxes and duties: P1.185 trillion. Collected in 2023 alone, that P1.185 trillion can fund the next nine years’ MUP pensions.

The economy will soon snap from plunder. The country will be unable to repay loans. Credit will shrink. Businesses will shut down. Workers will be laid off. Poverty and hunger will spread. Civil unrest will ensue.

On whom will the political elite rely to quell potential rebellion, if not on MUPs whose pensions they disdain?

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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