By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
As Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta gears up for his visit to Manila tomorrow, one question looms large: Will his diplomatic dialogue with President Marcos encompass the contentious issue of Arnolfo Teves Jr.?
If I remember correctly, this fugitive accused of orchestrating the assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo sought political asylum in Timor-Leste, only to be denied and given a five-day grace period to exit the country last May.
Now, amid discussions in Malacanang tomorrow about “technical, political, educational, and economic partnerships,” it’s impossible to ignore this glaring omission. Ramos-Horta’s visit presents a critical opportunity to address the matter of Teves and his alleged involvement in a heinous crime.
But will BBM use this visit to press for Teves’s extradition, ensuring justice is served, or will the issue be conveniently sidestepped in the spirit of diplomatic decorum?
May I remind both presidents that this is not just about politics and economics; it’s about upholding the principles of justice.
As Mr. Marcos positions himself as the leading voice in ASEAN for Timor-Leste’s regular inclusion in the regional bloc, Ramos-Horta’s visit should be a litmus test for his country’s commitment to international law and cooperation in the face of alleged criminality. The world watches with bated breath to see if justice will indeed prevail.
Last Tuesday, there was a “National Day of Action” — nothing celebratory, but scenes of aging people milled around a few Philippine National Bank (PNB) branches in the country, like Session Road in Baguio City. It turns out that these people are fighting for their rights and their grievances.
Firstly, PNB retirees seek a prompt resolution of their unpaid benefits and fair treatment after dedicating years of service. They dread the PNB’s delaying tactics regarding their demands: a simple compliance of Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) and Special Amelioration Allowance (SAA) as they claim were decided by the courts. Additionally, the alleged illegal deductions of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) gratuity pay from their retirement should be rectified. Retirees’ separation or retirement pay should reflect their salaries before retirement, and the dissolution of their provident fund must be addressed.
The GSIS should ensure retirement benefits and pensions are based on total years of government service, and legislation should grant lifetime pensions to those forced to receive gratuity pay due to the PNB’s privatization.
It’s time to honor these retirees’ contributions and secure their financial well-being. The government, PNB, GSIS, and relevant agencies must act now to resolve these longstanding issues.
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