THE feud between Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and a group of veterans over the implementation of the newly approved constitution and by-laws (CBL) of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) is getting from bad to worse as both parties threatened to bring the matter to the court.
Gazmin on Friday accused opposing officials of the VFP of spreading disinformation to protect their positions and self-interest in the organization.
“Resistant to reforms is but normal in the case of these people, especially so because they are the same people who have been implicated in the adverse management audit findings of the Commission on Audit and the DND [Department of National Defense] special Management Audit Team,” Gazmin said.
Part of the disinformation, he added, was the group’s claim that the approved CBL was rejected by delegates in the first-ever National President’s Convention held last May 17 to 18 in Taguig City.
“The new constitution and by-laws of the VFP is the backbone of the various reforms that will further strengthen the VFP,” Gazmin said in reaction to an earlier statement released by retired Col. Bonifacio de Gracia, executive vice-president of the VFP.
The De Gracia statement said all 182 delegates rejected the changes made by Gazmin in the classification of organizations that may join the federation as un umbrella organization, the membership requirement, the composition of the supreme council and committees and management, including the financial system.
“All regional presidents, district presidents, including presidents of charter and affiliate organizations of the VFP all over the Philippines have unanimously spoken and they do not want to tinker with the current VFP constitution and by-laws at this time,” it said.
“They particularly expressed disapproval of the changes in the by-laws being introduced by no less that Defense Secretary Gazmin,” the statement added.
Delegates, it further said, believed that the Gazmin-proposed amendments will diminish the core functionof the current set up of officers, downgrade the roles of the veterans’ widows and children,
They also shared the fear that the amendment will allow non-veterans to come in and take hold and control all the assets of the VFP.
Contrary to the claims of the opposing group, Gazmin reasoned out that the new CBL would advance the interest of all Filipino veterans and their families, and not just the interest of the few.
Gazmin said the CBL was a product of years of consultation with all veterans organizations, primarily the VFP.
The move to promulgate a CBL for VFP was initiated by the House committee on veterans affairs and welfare through a committee resolution directing the secretary of national defense through the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) to implement a “to do list.”
Gazmin said the committee conducted a series of hearings and consultations with various veterans organizations following complaints pertaining to alleged abuses and mismanagement of VFP funds as stated in the audit reports of the COA.
Gazmin explained that the consolidated output was again presented in a number of public hearings of the committee where veterans organizations were again represented, including the VFP, before it was elevated to the Office of Legal Services of the DND before he finally approved it on 25 June 2013.
“I was the one who approved that convention to educate the members about their new Constitution and By-Laws, and I was informed that most of the attendees were AFP retirees, not war veterans because these veterans are very old and they cannot travel anymore, so the statement of VFP that 182 war veterans rejected the CBL is definitely a patent lie, and I will make sure that the source of that lie will be held accountable,” Gazmin said.
The defense chief claimed that the VFP has become so unpopular to the veterans that less than 30 percent of the total number of PVAO pensioners nationwide are members of the federation.
Gazmin also underscored that the new CBL was not carved in stone.
“In case there are provisions the veterans want to amend, Article XII of the CBL provides procedures for the amendment or repeal, in whole or in part, of its provisions. Any member may raise the proposed amendment to the Governance Committee who will evaluate its soundness before submitting it to the Committee on Governance,” Gazmin said.