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Higher financial aid eyed for ‘2 battalions’ of Marawi wounded

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto today called for additional budget for the care and financial reward for the “more than one thousand soldiers wounded” in the battle to liberate Marawi City from terrorists.

“If the injuries sustained by the wounded are so severe that they would require lifetime care and assisted living, then it is time to review if existing policies are enough to provide those,” Recto said.

Under existing rules, a soldier or a policeman permanently maimed during combat or operations, gets a one-time P250,000 financial aid. Recto wants this quadrupled to P1 million.

He also called for the augmentation of the budget for the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program, (CSBP) which lists the aid to be extended to killed and wounded uniformed personnel, as it was based on an estimate of 681 personnel killed or wounded during the entire year.

“The war in Marawi was not factored in. If guns need to be reloaded with ammo, the same is true for the funds of programs to help the wounded and the killed,” Recto said.

Recto said “the wounded are the other heroes of Marawi.”

It is also time to publicly honor them, he added. “They are casualties too. They may not have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep the peace, but their valor and courage are no less fierce.”

Recto said the number of wounded servicemen in Marawi has exceeded the 1,000 mark by now. The military does not provide a running tally of troops wounded since extremists overran the city May 23.

But when the AFP briefed senators on the Marawi crisis prior to the special session of Congress last July 22 to tackle the extension of the state of Martial Law in Mindanao, the number of wounded government troops had reached 845 by then, Recto said.

“That was the reported figure as of July 17. At that time, the report was 823 AFP personnel wounded plus 22 from the police. That was the figure 47 days ago,” Recto said.

Unlike KIAs or killed in action, the total to date of which is mentioned in every report, military battlefield reports do not carry a running total of WIAs or wounded-in-action.

By August 31, the number of soldiers killed had climbed to 136, the latest three fatally wounded in the retaking of a strategic bridge that leads to the city.

Thursday’s push also wounded 54 troops, according to media reports that quoted military spokesmen. “Isang araw lang yan na tala ng sugatan,” Recto noted.

“May isang araw, noong July 22, na 42 ang wounded sa loob ng 24 oras. So ngayon higit na 1,000 na,” he added.

Recto said he is not questioning what appears to be a policy to embargo information on total number of wounded.

“Ang sa akin lang, alamin natin, bigyan natin ng parangal, at tulong para maka-recover sila sa mga sugat na natamo. At pagpugay na rin. The people deserve the right to salute their heroes,” Recto said.

He said stories of wounded personnel reporting to the front with injuries not yet completely healed depict men who are heroes.

“May mga sugatan, na hindi pa naghihilom ang sugat, rushed back to the front because they want to fight alongside with their comrade in arms. Iyang ganyang kabayanihan ang dapat malaman,” he said.

Recto said the existing aid package for wounded personnel should be studied. “I think for grave injuries, like multiple amputations, loss of sight, dapat dagdagan pa natin, gawing P1 million. At igarantisa ang habambuhay na alaga at hospitalization,” he said.

Under the CSBP, permanently disabled servicemen will get a financial assistance of P250,000 while those suffering minor and major injuries, P100,000.

Permanently disabled servicemen are entitled to four types of assistance: financial; shelter, which is a P450,000 unit within a military or police housing site; education, with annual stipends to two dependents; and medical, which covers hospitalization and maintenance medicine.

He said the budget of the AFP Medical Center, pegged at P1.613 Billion for 2018, should be increased to accommodate the needs of wounded servicemen. “Lampas dalawang batalyon na ang mga sugatan natin, sa Marawi pa lang.” SENATE-PR

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