PILAR, Bataan: More than 70 years have passed since World War II ended but some Filipino veterans are still waiting for recognition for their services.
“Ang nais lang namin ay fair treatment. Bakit ako, nasa masterlist naman ang pangalan ko pero wala akong natatanggap na benefits [We only want fair treatment. My name is on the masterlist but I have not received anything],” Anghel Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, 89, is one of thousands of veterans who were denied their benefits because they failed to provide documentation to prove their services during the war.
But he said the government promised that they would be given all of the benefits.
“I would like to ask the President. Where did we go wrong? How do we differ from the other veterans? We were promised our benefits but until now, we have not received anything,” Gatchalian added.
Beatriz Cardos, 85, and Soledad Giron, 77, held similar views.
They said the status of Filipino veterans remains complicated because of the barriers preventing them from receiving the benefits they have earned.
“We have not been given anything.The promised benefits have not reached us,” Giron said.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday announced that the government is now implementing the Pensioner’s Revalidation Program, which seeks to weed out fake veterans or beneficiaries.
In his speech, the President underscored the government’s goal to provide “sufficient care for our veterans and their families, enough to match their devotion to our country.”
“The government now has the obligation to take care of our veterans. The only problem is [that many]have joined the list, and have taken a share in the benefits, even if they are not true veterans. But the good news is we are now undertaking the Pensioner’s Revalidation Program,” he said.
Because of this, Aquino added, the government ceased granting benefits to 22,534 accounts in 2014 while 14,616 others were suspended.
“The result [is that]we have retrieved pension remittances worth P396.61 million, and this March, the number of veterans and their spouses who are receiving service from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office has reached 133,784. Now, we are making sure that every peso we give from our national coffers goes to the truly deserving,” he said.
The President highlighted health benefits available to veterans. He said the “doors of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) are wide open” for them.
In 2013, Aquino noted that the government spent P17 million for medical services for 1,092 veterans. He said the VMMC has even expanded veterans’ benefits to include cataract operations, coronary angiogram and cardiac bypass as procedures shouldered by the government.
Aquino lauded Filipino war veterans.
“Through the example you have set, the Filipino spirit remains alive today. This is why, no matter how much time passes, the State will continue to recognize your contributions.
What we want is sufficient care for our veterans and their families, enough to match their devotion to our country,” the President said.
But veterans Eugenio Ramos of Bulacan province and Felimon Villanueva of Quezon province said the President’s speech was only good to hear.
“What he said was all good. But we hope that the President will also increase our pension,” Ramos said.
They said they are receiving only P6,700 a month, which, according to them, is not enough.