It is becoming more likely that there will be reforms in the pension benefits being enjoyed by retired uniformed service personnel.
The shape and form is now the only remaining question.
Secretary of Finance Benjamin Diokno who is the face of this effort seems bent on pushing it thru.
According to him, the money going to uniformed retirees is such that, if nothing is done to reform the system, there will be a government fiscal collapse by 2030 which is just seven years away.
As if that doomsday messaging is not enough, the IMF Western Pacific regional representative has joined the fray by saying there will indeed be a fiscal problem due to the “generous pension benefits.”
I do not know why he found it necessary to inject himself into this politically sensitive internal issue or whether that is even part of his duties.
There are also others whose criticisms are actually nothing but disguised envy.
Just last week, a broadsheet national daily came out with an editorial criticizing the military pension benefits as quite unfair.
The editorial could hardly hide its sarcasm and patronizing attitude to the much heralded reason that military pensions are such because soldiers put their lives on the line in the service of their country.
In all the rhetoric, however, I have not seen an overall concrete proposal put forward by those advocating for reform on how best to solve this so called looming fiscal collapse.
All that I have seen so far is the pounding on the issue that the average retirement pay of a military retiree is about P40,000 while that of an SSS and GSIS pensioner are about P4,000 and P12,000 respectively, emphasizing the difference between the two.
People seem to forget that before President Duterte, who by the way was the only President who had the political will to keep his campaign promise of doubling the entry level pay of men in uniform, uniformed personnel were paid destitution wages for so long.
The other is the indexation of pension benefits to the pay of active serving uniformed personnel.
Reform proponents further want to require uniformed service personnel to contribute towards their pension by some kind of monthly pay deductions to be matched by the government just like other government workers in the civilian government bureaucracy and stop the indexation.
Perhaps, the good Secretary can come out with his complete recommendations on how best to solve or mitigate the problem and then pass it around so it can be studied thoroughly instead of his constant media doomsday messaging.
I would like to think the police and military are thinking people who can understand reason if they see one.
Those critics who denigrate the services provided by men and women in uniform do not help the situation at all.
We have to bear in mind there are other agencies in government that are also enjoying the same retirement perks if not better.
How about them?
The fact that the retirees in these agencies are fewer in number is not the point of the argument.
It is about the so called unfairness of the military pension system that is the bone of contention.
Furthermore, many members of both houses of Congress, for instance, have taken a negative view and are not fully convinced of the entirety of what Secretary Diokno is proposing.
So do many senior retirees from both the police and military who have taken to social media to criticize the salary of Secretary Diokno as being the highest in the government amounting to almost P42M a year which to them is more scandalous.
But to be fair to the good Secretary, part of what he is saying is not new.
It was actually tried before in the military.
If my memory serves me right, in the 1980s, we in the service actually were deducted an amount every month to pay for our projected retirement benefits with the government contributing a share.
After several years, however, this was abruptly stopped for reasons I have never really found out.
The contributions were reimbursed to us without any interest.
It appears that something happened to the management of the funds and, from what I understood at that time, some officers were eventually charged.
There was also a time when we paid contributions to the GSIS but this was also abruptly discontinued due I believe to the enactment of the PNP Law in 1992.
The only thing that was not touched was the pension indexation which retirees have enjoyed ever since I can remember.
There are therefore some starting points for a meaningful dialogue which hopefully will result in a positive way forward.
Those involved in finding solutions must also be a lot more creative in their thinking and those currently in senior positions in the Military and Police should not just wait for developments but this early, must put forward their positions.
For instance, would they be willing to contribute for their retirement benefits and agree to be paid their retirement benefits based on the ranks they held when they retired?
How about the issue of indexation?
Would they be willing to give that up or lessen the increase?
Lastly, it would do well for Secretary Diokno to look up the incentives, benefits and other remunerations of other countries in the region to see how our military pay scale and retirement benefits compare with them.
It might just shock him to find out that compared to them, ours may be actually at the lower end of the totem pole.