SEN. Ralph Recto on Saturday sought to increase to P1 million from P250,000, the budget for each government trooper wounded in the ongoing battle to liberate Marawi City from Maute extremists.
The Senate President Pro Tempore also deplored that the number of wounded soldiers and policemen in the war in Marawi has already exceeded the 1,000 mark or “over two battalions.”
Under existing rules, a soldier or a policeman permanently maimed during combat or operations, gets a one-time P250,000 financial aid. Recto wants this quadrupled to P1 million.
He called for the augmentation of the budget for the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program (CSBP), which lists the aid to be extended to killed and wounded uniformed personnel.
The senator said the 2017 budget for CSBP was based on an estimate of 681 personnel killed or wounded during the entire year.
“If the injuries sustained by the wounded are so severe that they would require lifetime care and assisted living, then it is time to review if existing policies are enough to provide those,” Recto said.
“The war in Marawi was not factored in,” he said, adding the existing aid package for wounded personnel should be studied.
“I think for grave injuries, like multiple amputations, loss of sight we must increase it to P1 million. And we should ensure lifetime care and hospitalization for them,” he said.
Under the CSBP, permanently disabled servicemen will get a financial assistance of P250,000 while those suffering minor and major injuries, P100,000.
Permanently disabled servicemen are entitled to four types of assistance: financial; shelter, which is a unit costing P450,000 within a military or police housing site; education, with annual stipends to two dependents; and medical, which covers hospitalization and maintenance medicine.
He said the budget of the AFP Medical Center, pegged at P1.613 billion for 2018, should be increased to accommodate the needs of wounded servicemen.
Recto said “the wounded are the other heroes of Marawi.” It is also time to publicly honor them, he said.
“They are casualties too. They may not have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep the peace, but their valor and courage are no less fierce,” he said.
Recto noted that when officials of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) briefed senators on the Marawi crisis prior to the special session of Congress last July 22 to tackle the extension of the state of martial law in Mindanao, the number of wounded government troops had reached 845 by then.
“That was the reported figure as of July 17. At that time, the report was 823 AFP personnel wounded plus 22 from the police. That was the figure 47 days ago,” he said.
Unlike KIAs or killed in action, the total to date of which is mentioned in every report, military battlefield reports “do not carry a running total of WIAs or wounded-in-action,” he said.
By August 31, the number of soldiers killed had climbed to 136, the latest three fatally wounded in the retaking of a strategic bridge that leads to the city.
“Thursday’s push also wounded 54 troops, according to media reports that quoted military spokesmen,” he said.
On July 22, 42 soldiers were wounded within 24 hours. “So, ngayon higit na 1,000 na [So, now it’s over 1,000],” he added.
Recto said he is not questioning what appears to be a policy to embargo information on total number of wounded.
“The people deserve the right to salute their heroes,” Recto said. He said stories of wounded personnel reporting to the front with injuries not yet completely healed depict men who are heroes.
“There are wounded soldiers who want to rushed back to the front because they want to fight alongside with their comrade in arms,” he said.