The Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) refuted Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s claim that it is spreading misinformation to prevent the implementation of the new constitution and by-laws (CBL) of the federation.
The VFP also belied Gazmin’s claim that the House committee on veterans affairs and welfare initiated the move to promulgate a new CBL, since a committee resolution cannot tell the Executive what to do.
VFP executive vice president Ret. Col. Bonifacio De Gracia reiterated that different clusters of their group in a recent convention rejected the new CBL.
De Gracia presented documents showing that the 182 delegates to the convention were divided into six clusters to ‘efficiently’ discuss their issues. Each of the six clusters were headed by cluster presidents who he said were all World War II [WWII] veterans.
Dioscoro Valuenzuela headed Cluster I; Ernesto Francisco, Cluster II; Justice Manuel Pamaran, Cluster III; Albertino Macas, Cluster IV; Jose Sorreta and Antonio Collado, Cluster V; and Melosino Respicio Cluster VI.
“All of the cluster presidents are now over 90 years old,” de Gracia told The Manila Times.
“Majority of the attendees were [WWII] veterans, there were only a few [AFP] retirees,” he added, debunking Gazmin’s claims.
He assured the Times that all of the 182 delegates rejected the CBL proposed by Gazmin.
Cluster I (Regions I, III), Cluster II (Regions IV, XII, XIII), and Cluster VI (Regions II, VII, IX, CAR) said they support the 1964 CBL.
Cluster IV (Regions VIII, X, XI) said the Veterans Affairs Management Division (VAMD) should not interfere with the affairs of the VFP while Cluster V (Regions V, VI) said they oppose the new CBL.
Cluster III (Charter, Affiliate and NCR) preferred to stay in the middle and said Gazmin and the VFP should talk first to decide which CBL is to be followed.
The cluster said that until a decision has been made, they will maintain the ‘status quo’, which was to follow the existing CBL.
Moreover, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Administrator Ernesto Carolina reportedly commented that VFP’s rejection “comes as no surprise because from the very start, Col. De Gracia has been vigorously campaigning against the CBL approved by Secretary Gazmin.”
Last month, the PVAO said it would continue its efforts to reform the VFP, which it said was “being run by its officials like a private organization,” to fully cater to the needs of all the country’s veterans and not just the interest of the few as its affairs are exclusive to its members only.
Some of its officials, Carolina added, have been occupying their posts for 30 years as they have no term limits.
According to De Gracia, the term of the officers of VFP go on as long as ‘the members still want them in the position.’
“For example, Ret. Col. Emmanuel V. de Ocampo, still sits as the VFP president because the members are still satisfied with his performance,” De Gracia said.
Ret.Gen. Michaelangelo Siscar, VFP vice president for finance, said “Carolina should not interfere because he is just an observer, he’s just there to represent the Secretary of National Defense.”
De Gracia also denounced Gazmin’s claim that the VFP has become ‘unpopular’ to the veterans and that less than 30 percent of the total number of PVAO pensioners nationwide are members of the federation.
According to de Gracia, VFP only registers 30 percent of the veterans in the country because membership was not compulsory.
“Forcing somebody to join against his or her will is against the law, that’s human rights,” Attorney Eduardo Pilapil, VFP vice president for operations, said.
However, Pilapil clarified that though VFP only covers 30 percent of the veterans, they do not exclude the other 70 percent from whatever benefits they are able to negotiate for.
“The VFP members are the ones working on behalf of the whole veteran community. So whatever we get, they get it too. We push for benefits for all the veterans, not just our members,” he said.
Pilapil once served in the 8th and 11th Congress. He authored Republic Act 6948, also known as the Old-age Pension Law, and Republic Act 7169 or the Re-opening of the Philippine Veterans Bank.
“VFP is a public organization by virtue of the law. We are actually under the rules and regulations of the GCG [Governance Commission for Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations] and required by the civil service law to comply with the civil service eligibility of our employees,” De Gracia said.
He was being questioned for occupying concurrent positions in the federation as he is also acting secretary general and vice president for administration while being the acting executive vice president and vice chairman of the Executive Board.
“I am no longer the secretary general because we have already demolished that position following the public organizations’ setup of officers,” De Gracia said.