The die has been cast. Finally, after months of idle talk and hesitation and even criticisms against President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, he finally signed the P1,000 increase in the monthly pension for members of the Social Security System (SSS). Of course, it carries a corresponding 1.5 percent increase in the contribution of SSS members. So starting this May, some 34 million SSS contributors, along with their employers, will have to cough up with that increase in monthly contributions. This effectively gives some two million pensioners an increase in their monthly pension.
SSS president Emmanuel Dooc and SSS chairman Amado Valdez showed up to answer prepared questions from the media, which was carried live on ANC. Frankly speaking, I don’t see any opposition from the members to this hike in the SSS monthly pension, but questions remain about the huge salaries that SSS officials in the past incurred or bestowed upon themselves. My good friend, SSS chairman Valdez, revealed that the members of SSS board of directors do not have salaries and only get honorarium. But just the same, we know when honorariums are just right or downright excessive! In my book, those SSS executives should adjust their excessive honorariums and this should be changed as soon as possible in order to attune the SSS in today’s times. This is what fiscal responsibility is all about.
But within the Cabinet itself, this new SSS pension hike was questioned by Secretary Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Secretary Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Secretary Liza Maza of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) who all reminded President Duterte of his promise to raise the SSS pension by at least P2,000. Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Ben Diokno reminded his friends in the cabinet that when President Duterte was a candidate for president, he did make such a promise, but now that he is president, he has to balance that promise to the reality on the Philippine economy whether it can absorb the SSS pension increase.
In reply, the Cabinet secretaries reminded the president: “The SSS pension fund is not built only through membership contribution by its members. It is also built by prudent investment of the fund in financial instruments that bring yields which exceed at least the inflation rate and the true cost of living.”
This exchange gives you an idea that the Duterte cabinet is not composed of “Yes” men or women or a rubberstamp cabinet. But DBM Secretary Diokno must keep the right balance to ensure that the life of the SSS would be extended for another 10 years and look for other means to keep the SSS financially viable. So in the meantime, those SSS pensioners who are going to get these benefits come May, they should look at other sources for funds like their seniors citizen’s bonus in their respective barangays.
Apparently, despite the additional P25.5 million fund for Jomara Konstruckt to collect the garbage of Cebu City, piles of garbage can be seen and smelled all over Cebu City. Of course, people will tell you to be patient because the city is overwhelmed with garbage thrown carelessly along the sidewalks and streets. It just gives you an idea of how we Cebuanos still need to learn a lot about cleaning up our surroundings. While we are devoted Catholics, one Catholic teaching – cleanliness is next to godliness – seems to have escaped our mindset.
Perhaps we must learn from our Japanese friends how they have learned to clean up their surroundings yet not finding it as a daily chore. They are told to buy only the things they need and buy things that would not result in a huge trash. This is something that the ordinary Japanese have learned through life and it is high time that we Cebuanos learn these things.
Common courtesy is something we, too, have to learn, most especially while we are driving on our streets. Yesterday, at around 2:15 p.m., as we were lining up to turn right to Raintree Mall from F. Ramos Street, a huge green armored car suddenly swerved into our left side to force itself on the car in front of us. It had a huge number on its side – 1328 – with plate no. WNP 710. The occupant couldn’t wait and got out of the armored car and he was wearing a BDO polo barong or white shirt.
I called the attention of my good friend, Land Transportation Office (LTO-7) director Alita Pulga to have these discourteous drivers apprehended. Mind you, most of these armored cars come from Manila, including their drivers, and believe me, they lord it on our streets as it they are invincible and exempted from traffic rules. During my stint with CITOM, I always targeted those armored vehicles that do not follow traffic rules. These drivers do not know or realize that the only vehicles exempted from traffic rules are ambulances having an emergency run. But after the emergency, they have to follow the rules, too.