MANILA – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Tuesday that doubling the salaries of soldiers and police officers as promised by President Rodrigo Duterte will not happen this year.
”I can almost say that that’s not possible by the end of the year, simply because there’s nothing there in the budget for that,” Diokno stated in a press briefing in Malacañang.
The Duterte administration is operating under the 2016 national budget prepared by the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
”We cannot spend something which is not authorized by Congress,” he explained.
Diokno, however, said the military and uniformed police personnel, like other public servants, received a pay hike and other benefits under the Salary Standardization program implemented this year through Executive Order No. 201 signed by Aquino last February.
”The first tranche was given in 2016. There will be a second tranche in 2017, third in 2018, and the fourth. The other military and the uniformed personnel are included in those tranches,” he said.
The budget official clarified that doubled salaries promised by President Duterte to the soldiers and law enforcement officers cover basic pay and allowances, including combat pay.
”It’s a combination of allowance and increase in pay. They are also entitled to rice allowance at 20 kilos per month,” he said.
Diokno said he has already explained to President Duterte the peculiarity of granting special salary increase for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
”In the AFP, the pension of the armed forces, meaning the army, the navy, naka-index sa (are indexed in the) current salary ng (of the) military. Once you increase the pay of the military, automatically the pension of the retirees will also increase,” he explained.
Diokno called it “the elephant in the room” that nobody wanted to touch, even during the past three administrations of former presidents Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Aquino.
”It is very sensitive. So, until we have addressed that problem, it’s hard to adjust the pay of the military,” Diokno said.
In the last development budget coordinating committee meeting at the House of Representatives, Diokno said a PHP39.5 billion budget had been allotted for the salary increase of police, military and other uniformed personnel for 2017.
He said the amount included in the proposed PHP3.35 trillion national budget for next year was set aside to fulfill President Duterte’s promise to increase the budget of the soldiers, law enforcement officers, and uniformed personnel.
By Jelly F. Musico