Sponsorship Speech on Senate Bill No. 1480 under Committee Report No. 11 entitled, “Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans”


Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada 

Chairperson, Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation 

Senate Bill No. 1480 under Committee Report 11

Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans 

Jinggoy calls on colleagues to pass a bill increasing veterans’ disability pension: Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, on Tuesday, November 22, 2022, sponsors on the floor a measure proposing a 350% to 488% increase in the disability pension of disabled veterans. Estrada, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, said it has been 28 years since the law providing for the said benefit has been amended. (Office of Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada/ Rey Javelosa)

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues of this august body, as your Chairperson of the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, it is my distinct honor to sponsor Senate Bill 1480 under Committee Report 11 – “An Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 6948, entitled ‘An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Beneficiaries,’ as Amended.”

This Committee Report is a consolidation of Senate Bill 683 authored by this representation and Senate Bill 911 filed by our esteemed Finance Committee Chairperson Senator Sonny Angara. 

Article 16, Section 7 of our Constitution provides that, “The State shall provide immediate and adequate care, benefits, and other forms of assistance to war veterans and veterans of military campaigns, their surviving spouses and orphans…”

Toward this end, Republic Act No. 6948, otherwise known as an “An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Dependents,” was signed into law by President Cory Aquino, sa mismong Araw ng Kagitingan, April 9, 1990. 

It declared as State policy “to help foster the socioeconomic security and general well-being of the country’s veterans in recognition of their patriotic services in times of war and peace for the cause of freedom and democracy, for the attainment of national unity, independence and socioeconomic development…” 

Ang aking ama na si dating Pangulong Joseph “Erap” Estrada, na naging bahagi ng kapulungan ng Senado noong ika-walong Kongreso, ay isa sa may-akda at timon o sponsor ng panukala, na nang kalaunan ay naging ganap na batas. Samantala, ang ama ng ating katuwang na may-akda ng panukalang ito, ang ama ni Sen. Sonny Angara na si dating Senador Edgardo Angara, ay naging co-sponsor rin nito. 

The said law contains a special chapter detailing a range of benefits for our veterans, to wit: educational benefits; pension for the veterans of the revolution; old age pension; death pension; hospitalization, medical care and treatment; burial benefits; and disability pension. 

Disability pension was given to veterans who were disabled owing to sickness, disease, wounds or injuries sustained in line of duty. The intent and spirit of the disability pension is to support the disabled veteran in view of their loss of capacity to be gainfully employed by reason of sickness or injuries they have sustained in the course of accomplishing their noble mission. Under this law and according to their disability rating, the monthly disability pension ranged from 600 pesos to 1,125 pesos. For those with total disability, 150 pesos was also given for the spouse and each unmarried minor children. 

Exactly four years later, on April 9, 1994, President Fidel V. Ramos approved Republic Act No 7696, which provided an increase in the disability pension of our veterans. The law was signed during the Senate Presidency of Sen. Ed Angara, whose signature appears on RA 7696.

Those with lowest disability rating of 10 to 30% which originally received 600 pesos monthly, is now receiving 1,000 pesos.  The monthly pension increases with higher disability rating. For those with 91-100% disability rating who were previously receiving 1,125 pesos, are now receiving 1,700 pesos plus 500 pesos for the spouse and each unmarried minor children. 

That was the last upward adjustment for the disability pension for our veterans. That was in the year 1994. 

Twenty eight years later, the same rates apply to our disabled veterans. Almost three decades since that last legislative amendment, the amount remained stagnant and is simply not enough to sustain the needs of the our veterans. The only increase was by virtue of Republic Act No. 11164, enacted under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, which only covers the old-age pension of living World War II veterans and living veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars who are not receiving pension from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Needless to say, the amount is already grossly inadequate to provide for their needs, considering the high cost of living today and the state of health they are in. By all metrics, the value of 1,000 pesos in 1994 is undoubtedly much, much lower in 2022, with almost 250% price increase since. Ang halaga ng isang libo noon ay dalawang daan at walumpu’t pitong piso (P287) na lamang ngayon. Hindi na po sapat ang benepisyong tinatanggap ng ating mga beterano, lalo na sa harap ng pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin at pangunahing pangangailangan. 

It is therefore imperative that the legislature corrects this grave injustice and accord our disabled veterans the dignity, respect, and care that they truly deserve. Our Committee Report proposes to provide our veterans with a minimum of 4,500-peso monthly disability pension, and a maximum of 10,000 pesos and 1,000 pesos for the spouse and each unmarried minor children. 

This Senate Bill intends to seek the support of this chamber for a timely and reasonable increase in the monthly disability pension for our 4,386 veteran pensioners, as well as doubled benefits for some 2,276 spouses and 795 minors, as per information provided by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO). 

If I may also share some information from the PVAO about the number of our veterans as relayed before your Committee on National Defense[1]

·      PVAO says they have 204 centenarians, as of September 2022. 

·      The oldest among them is a World War II veteran who is 112 years old. 

·      For the 90-99 age bracket, we have 1,484 veterans.

·      Marami sa kanila ay bed-ridden na. Pagbabahagi pa ni PVAO Administrator Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, may nakilala siyang isang beterano mula La Union na 104 taong gulang na napakalakas pa at kayang-kayang maglakad. 

In their twilight years, they are still fighting, albeit a different battle altogether. If I may use the words of former Senator and Majority Leader Alberto G. Romulo in his March 5, 1990 sponsorship speech, our veterans are a “vanishing breed of Filipinos” who offered “supreme sacrifice in the defense of our country.” He also went on to say, “If there is one debt we should acknowledge and pay immediately, this is the debt to the veterans of this nation.”

This representation is hoping and praying, along with our war and military veterans, for the chamber’s support and swift approval on this measure, which was previously passed on Third and Final Reading by the House of Representatives during the 18th Congress. 

It is a simple gesture of gratitude and appreciation for the invaluable service, loyalty and gallantry of our military veterans, whom we owe the freedom, democracy and peace we all enjoy today. As PVAO stated during our hearing, for our veterans, it means “additional disposable income that they can use for their everyday living expenses.” But more so, it is a “reassurance to our veterans that we are not forgetting them,” and “a tangible manifestation of the whole government’s continued pledge to ensure the welfare of our country’s veterans by guaranteeing their pension is responsive to their current needs.”

Thank you, Mr. President.