In this photo taken on September 8, 2020, police officers wearing face shields stand guard near a gate leading to the presidential palace in Manila. ( AFP / TED ALJIBE)

Philippine govt rejects Facebook posts about 'new pension reform'

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts circulating in the Philippines claim the government will hike pensions for retired police and military personnel from April 15, 2022. While Congress is deliberating pension reforms, no such legislation has been passed, as of March 17. A purported law mentioned in the Facebook posts does not exist, while an executive order they mention is unrelated to pensions.

"AFP/PNP Pensioners Retirees are included in the standardization of salary pension in the amount of 29% and will take effect on our ATM [effective] April 15, 2022," reads a Facebook post shared on February 21.

"AFP" refers to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and "PNP" is the Philippine National Police.

The post says the reform will be implemented under a law called "R.A. 114660" and an executive order called "#579".

"We are all going to be happy again!!!" it adds in Tagalog.

Screenshot of misleading post taken on March 12, 2022.

Multiple Facebook posts shared the same claim, including here, here and here.

Pension reforms

The Philippine finance department has called for reforms to the pensions of military and uniformed personnel (MUP), which it called a "growing fiscal burden" for the government.

President Rodrigo Duterte said in July 2021 he was asking Congress to pass pension reforms that would apply to new MUP recruits.

However, the Philippine Department of National Defense said in March 2022 that the bill was still under deliberation and that no MUP pension reform had been announced.

"The MUP Pension Reform Bill is still being deliberated in Congress and there are presently no changes in the current salary of active personnel and pension of retirees from the uniformed services," spokesman Arsenio Andolong said in a statement on March 8.

The reform bill -- which is composed of several bills filed in the upper and lower houses of the Congress -- is still pending as of March 17.

Military and police exclusion

The misleading Facebook posts refer to a purported law called "R.A. 114660". 

However, a keyword search on officialgazette.gov.ph -- the Philippine government portal that publishes presidential documents -- shows no such law.

There is a law with a similar name, Republic Act 11466, or the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, but it concerns the salaries of "civilian government personnel" and explicitly excludes military and uniformed personnel.

A keyword search for "Executive Order #579" cited in the misleading Facebook posts found orders by that name published in 1953, 1980 and 2006. 

However, they deal with fixing the ceiling prices of commodities, creating a national committee for sports development and implementing environment programmes.

None of them relates to pension for soldiers, police and other uniformed personnel. 

Michel Kristian Ablan, an undersecretary at the presidential communications office, said there was no "Executive Order #579" issued under Duterte's government.

"The latest [Executive Order] is EO 164. So '579' is way off," he told AFP on March 17.

Keyword searches found a "National Budget Circular No. 579" issued by the Philippine budget department in January 2020.

The circular was a guide to implement the first round of salary increases stated in the Salary Standardization Law of 2019.

However, it said that military and uniformed personnel were "excluded from the coverage of this Circular".

Fact-checking organisation Rappler also debunked this claim.