BAGUIO CITY – Every April 9 is declared as “Araw ng Kagitingan” or Day of Valor when the nation commemorates the heroism of Filipino and American soldiers who fought the Japanese World War II.
In many areas of the country such as Bontoc, Mountain Province , the day is marked by parade, wreath laying and program paying tribute to the war veterans who fought courageously the foreign invaders to gain freedom for the country that is being enjoyed by the present generation.
The celebration in the province is being led by the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP)-Mountain Province District.
Reflecting on the theme of this year’s Araw ng Kagitingan celebration, “Sakripisyo ng Beterano ay Gunitain, Gawing Tanglaw ng Kabataan Tungo sa Kaunlaran,” Police Provincial Director Col. Clarence C. Casillo stressed that the youth of today should let this event serve as constant reminder and as a challenge that the liberty, the freedom we are experiencing now was paid off by the precious blood and tears of our heroes, the veterans.
Who are the veterans?
VFP-Mountain Province District president Paulo P. Pagteilan said veterans, as defined in amended Republic Act No. 6948, are those who rendered honorable military service in the land, sea, or air forces of the Philippines during the revolution against Spain and World War II; those who fought in Korea during the Korean war called the PEFTOK (Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea) , and those who fought in Vietnam War in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s called the PHILCAG (Philippine Civic Action Group).
Retired personnel of the AFP who reached the retirement age and those that were discharged and left the service honorably are called the post war veterans.
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) is mandated to look after the care and treatment of veterans and keeping their patriotic services ever fresh in the memory of the Filipino people particularly the young.
Based on the records of the PVAO, there are still seven surviving WWII veterans in the province. Of the seven, two each are in the municipalities of Bontoc who are 93 and 94 years old and in Tadian who are 94 and 95 years old. The municipalities of Sagada, Sadanga and Paracelis have one each aged 90, 98 and 100 years old, respectively.
Veteran Andres Baglinit Wanason of Butigue, Paracelis turned 100 in March 3, 2019.
For all their sacrifices, what are the benefits for veterans?
Wilma Chao-angan Padngara, Head of the Field Extension Service Office of Philippine Veterans Affairs Office in the Cordillera Region provided updates on the programs and benefits for the veterans.
She shared the good news that long awaited old-age pension increase was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 20, 2018 under Republic Act No. 11164 or “An Act Increasing the Pension of Senior Veterans.”
Surviving WWII veterans including PEFTOK and PHILCAG who do not have any other pension from the AFP shall receive P20, 000.00 age-old pension from the P5, 000.00 effective January 2019. The pension though is not transferrable to any family member or dependent when they die.
Padngara also informed that educational benefit for WWII, PEFTOK and PHILCAG beneficiaries had also increased from P36, 000.00 to P40, 000.00 per school year.
For the veterans hospitalization and health care benefits of veterans, aside from free health care services at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, veterans and their dependents are entitled to a subsidy of P1, 500.00 per day of hospital confinement up to a maximum of 45 days per year. However, confinements to private hospitals are subject for reimbursement which shall be submitted to VMMC not later than 180 days upon discharged.
Other special services for veterans which are reimbursable in nature include hearing aid not to exceed P30,000.00 per device; cataract surgery not to exceed P14,000.00 per eye; dentures not to exceed P5,000.00 (P2,500 each for upper and lower dentures); orthopedic braces not to exceed P6,000.00 per device, and Cranial CT Scan not to exceed P4,000.00.
For hemodialysis treatment in excess of 90 treatments covered by PhilHealth, P2,500.00 per treatment will be reimbursed. For other C00T Scan and MRI procedures, amount will be based on the VMMC rate.
For Out Patient Department maintenance medicines for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, prostate, anti-psychotic drugs and oral antibiotics, and other Philippine National Drug Formulary, these shall also be reimbursed at cost but not to exceed its Philippine National Drug Reference Index ceiling price.
Other benefits include burial assistance and death pension for beneficiaries of deceased veterans.
Annual validation of veterans
A continuous program of PVAO is the annual validation/updating to verify, monitor and confirm the recent status of its pensioners . This is done through biometrics to pensioners who can personally appear at PVAO Baguio City.
For pensioners who cannot personally appear at PVAO, they are required to comply with the requirements for the Pensioner’s Update Form.
Validation of pensioners is also conducted through PhilPost wherein its staff personally validates the status of pensioners specially the centenarian veterans through skype, and home visit or spot verification.
As the government continues to ensure the well being of the veterans, may they continue inspiring and guiding the present generation to defend and love the country and keep themselves away from twisted idealism, destructive devices and corrupt practices. (JDP/JBS-PIA CAR, Mt. Province)
Wilma Chao-angan Padngaran of PVAO-CAR with 93 year-old veteran Benito Yadao Miranda of Poblacion, Bontoc during this year’s Veterans Week and 77th Araw Ng Kagitingan. PVAO records show there are seven surviving WWII veterans in the province, two each from the municipalities Bontoc and Tadian, and one each from the municipalities of Sagada, Sadanga and Paracelis. (JBS-PIA CAR, Mt. Province)