So you still want to be President of the Phl?

By Marichu A. Villanueva  

Esquire-Ramos-Estrada-Arroyo-AquinoWhat do our country’s three former Presidents — Fidel V. Ramos (FVR), Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) – have in common? All three of them are receiving a measly P8,000 a month in government pension.

Their counterparts, former presidents of the United States like father and son George H. W. Bush and George W. ”Dubya” Bush, and Bill Clinton are in much better care from their former bosses, the American taxpayers.

Under the US Former Presidents Act (FPA), the annual budget provides for payment of their pension, funding support for office rentals and staff, travel funds, mailing privileges and security service.

According to US Congressional Research Service, the FPA was enacted to “maintain the dignity” of the Office of the President. This US law provides their former President — and his or her spouse — certain benefits to help him respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required of a former president.

Prior to the enactment of the FPA in 1958, former Presidents leaving office received no pension or other federal assistance. Living US ex-presidents currently receive annual pension of $199,700 in 2013, or about $16,667 a month. This is said to be equal the pay scale for Cabinet secretaries at executive level I in the US. The pension is in addition to benefits provided pursuant to the FPA such as Secret Service protection and financial “transition” benefits to assist them cope with post-presidential life.

Pursuant to the FPA, former US Presidents are eligible for benefits unless they hold an appointive or elective office or position in the federal government. On January 10, 2013, President Barack Obama signed the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (PL 112-257) which extended lifetime Secret Service protection to former presidents and their children instead of the previous limit to 10 years.

Some critics in the US of the FPA noted it “subsidizes Presidents who are not struggling financially. Others argued that although a former President is not in a formal public position, he remains a public figure and should be provided a pension and benefits that permit him to perform duties that emerge as a result of his public status.”

The US Congress though has the authority to reduce, increase, or maintain the pension and benefits provided to former presidents of their government.

Although he is not aware if we have a law like the FPA, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed the country’s former presidents get a “minimum pension and security but not at the level that US presidents get.”

If you visit the office of FVR at RPDev in Makati City, the former President posted at the wall beside his receiving room the replicas of the green checks from the Land Bank of the Philippines issued to him as pension with title in bold blue letters: “Sweldo, sweet sweldo.” Below it, it states: “Monthly pension of FVR as President of the Philippines from July, 1998 to date.”

It is not as if they need money. All three former presidents are financially well off to take care of their needs. In fact, P8,000 could be just a drop in the bucket.

All our former presidents, as well as the incumbent President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III, come from well-to-do families, even before being elected into office.

FVR has been financially solid and a resident of posh Alabang Village before he went to Malacañang. Erap is a self-made multi-millionaire even before he became mayor of San Juan City out of his personal earnings as one of the highest paid actors in our country. GMA has likewise been financially stable with her family living at the exclusive village in La Vista, Quezon City.

GMA’s late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, who campaigned as the “poor boy from Lubao,” was actually wealthy already when he got elected to the highest post of the land.

Still, it is shocking to learn that our former Presidents get only this much pension. Is this how we value and treat our former presidents? Tsk, tsk, tsk…

It cannot be denied, however, our three living ex-Presidents are now in their twilight years. Incidentally, all three are celebrating their birthdays one after the other.

FVR just turned 86 years old last Wednesday. On April 5, ailing GMA will turn 67 years old and will have to celebrate in her hospital detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City. Her request to spend her birthday in her hometown in Lubao, Pampanga, has been recently denied by the Sandiganbayan. And on April 19, Erap turns 77.

Except for FVR, ex-Presidents Erap and GMA though are still serving public offices. Estrada is currently mayor of the City of Manila while GMA is on her second term as congresswoman in the second district of Pampanga.

Since he stepped down from office in June 1998, FVR retired from public service. He has kept himself busy publishing books of his speeches, traveling for speaking engagements here and abroad and writing a weekly column for Manila Bulletin. For all intents and purposes, FVR is earning income from all these activities he has been doing after his presidency.

At least in the case of FVR, he gets separate monthly pension after he retired from the military. This is from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Savings and Loan Association Inc. (AFP-SLAI) where his last post in the military was chief of staff of the AFP.

Both ex-Presidents Erap and GMA are getting paid again as public servants. As mayor, ex-President Estrada gets at least P67,000 a month in salary. As congresswoman, ex-President GMA gets about P90,000 a month.

President Aquino is currently receiving a monthly salary pegged at P95,000 a month – quite a jump from P57,750 in monthly salary that his immediate predecessor got as chief executive. Despite this salary upgrade, P-Noy will also get the same amount of pension in July 2016.

So those with moist eyes to succeed P-Noy in office, do you still want to become President of the Philippines?

2 Responses. Have your say.

  1. M. J. Farina says:

    Why not aspire to be president kahit maliit ang sweldo,todo naman ang posibleng kurakot.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      If you’re a millionaire in the Philippines, you’d be better off investing your money in politics rather than the stock market. Of course that’ll depend on how good of a liar you are, you also have to kiss a lot butts, especially those poor ignorant suckers that’ll be willing to vote for you for a few hundred pesos. Once you’re in, all the money you’ve invested to get elected you can easily tripled in a couple of years. I’m kind of curious how much Senator Trillanes is worth now? When he got elected, his net worth according to his SALN was only 70,000. I am willing to bet that he is now worth several millions, which isn’t possible if you’re monthly salary as a senator is less than 60,000.

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