Gibo’s first task: Fix MUP pension system

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Gibo�s first task: Fix MUP pension system
Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. holds his first press briefing as the newly appointed secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on June 07, 2023.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — Taking a cue from President Marcos who appointed him back to the Department of National Defense, DND Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said yesterday he would be prioritizing reforms in the military and other uniformed personnel (MUP) pension system.

In separate interviews before officially assuming his post at Camp Aguinaldo in a formal turnover ceremony, Teodoro revealed that Marcos gave him a “marching order” to focus on resolving issues concerning the pension of retired and active personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The first marching order of the President to me was the pension scheme for the armed forces, and a lot of work has been done toward that end and it’s a matter of continuing the work done,” he told ANC.

But before making a move, he commended his predecessor, Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., and the rest of the financial team of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno for working together on possible reforms in the MUP pension system.

Marcos’ economic team is pushing to overhaul the pension system to avert what Diokno has described as fiscal collapse stemming from high pension costs. The reforms would cover retired and retiring soldiers.

“It’s a matter of really just communication and tweaking the basis of it,” said Teodoro, who served as DND secretary from 2007 to 2009 during the Arroyo administration.

He expressed confidence in being able to help address the issues “because I came from the financial sector also.”

“I was an independent director from the financial institution,” Teodoro said. “I can review it and see because we want a self-sustaining pension system as much as possible. But it needs in my experience a couple of years to load it up in order for that to be self-sustaining.”

Teodoro said he wants to ensure that prudential standards are put in the governance of whatever fund is made.

In addition, he emphasized that those responsible for managing the fund should adhere to fit and proper rules similar to those imposed on bankers by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.?While acknowledging the inherent risks involved in growing the fund, Teodoro highlighted the importance of maintaining a balance by implementing prudent standards.

In an interview with dzRH radio, Teodoro explained that part of his responsibility is to ensure that the affected personnel of the AFP fully comprehend the reforms being pursued by the government.

While acknowledging the progress already achieved, Teodoro emphasized that his role is to build upon and amplify the message, ensuring that it reaches all members of the military effectively.

Last April, Galvez issued a statement assuring active and retired military personnel that proposed MUP reforms are being carefully studied for their benefit.

AFP modernization

One commitment Teodoro intends to keep on top of his priorities list is the modernization of the AFP in order to maintain a credible defense posture in protecting and defending the country’s territory.

“That is an essential element of a strong nation,” he said in the interview with dzRH as he reaffirmed the government’s unwavering stance on not surrendering any inch of Philippine territory, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.

“The policy of the country is clear. We do not give up our rights based on the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which is an existing law that defines your rights, your territory. That does not change,” he added.

Teodoro also underscored the need for a whole-of-government approach in addressing territorial issues, where national defense and civil defense awareness among the public are equally important.

Regarding the support from the United States through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Teodoro explained that further assistance and equipment would be based on the military’s needs and capabilities.

He emphasized the Philippines’ role as a strong partner in the Mutual Defense Treaty.

No talks with CPP-NPA

On dealing with the insurgency, Teodoro firmly stated that he will not recommend the resumption of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

In the interview he gave to ANC, he emphasized his consistent stance on welcoming rebels back into the fold of the government for rehabilitation and new opportunities. “But to enter into peace talks, I have always been against that. Why will we enter into peace talks when they can go back and run for public office?” he said.

Teodoro cited that in other countries, the authority of the communist party is essentially a dictatorship, contradicting their claim of being a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Regarding concerns raised by certain sectors about human rights and red-tagging, Teodoro acknowledged that any violation of the law should be disciplined.

However, he pointed out the achievements of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict in dismantling communist fronts.

Teodoro expressed his belief that the military may no longer need to aggressively pursue the NPA as many of the communist fronts have already been dismantled.

Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of remaining vigilant against all forms of terrorism to ensure the country’s development and security.

With his firm stance on peace talks and commitment to maintaining security, Teodoro sets a clear direction for his role as defense secretary in dealing with the CPP-NPA and safeguarding the nation’s interests.?Meanwhile, rights group Karapatan strongly criticized the appointments of Teodoro as defense chief and Teodoro Herbosa as secretary of the Department of Health.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay recalled that during Teodoro’s first stint as defense chief of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from August 2007 to October 2009, their group documented 181 cases of extrajudicial killings, 24 enforced disappearances, 20 abductions, 99 cases of torture, 456 illegal arrests and 164 illegal arrests with detention.

These abuses occurred during the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya, which Palabay described as a brutal counterinsurgency campaign.

She also criticized Herbosa, accusing him of red-tagging and dismissing health care workers’ concerns instead of addressing their issues, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. — Emmanuel Tupas

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