SB: P1,000 pension increase doable

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – An increase of P1,000 in the monthly Social Security System (SSS) pension for retirees is doable, but may require giving the pension fund powers to hike contributions.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said this as he and his colleagues in the legislature groped for an alternative to the proposed P2,000 pension hike that was vetoed last week by President Aquino.

Belmonte said he would formally write the President, the SSS Board as well as the Senate about his proposal to grant retirees a pension increase of P1,000. He said his proposal includes a commitment that Congress would also pass a pending bill that allows the pension fund to increase members’ contributions.

The Speaker said he informed Aquino and Drilon of his plan during their lunch yesterday at Malacañang after consulting with top SSS officials.

“They (SSS) are actually willing to give P500 which could reduce the fund life from three to five years but they will find ways to address this,” Belmonte said.

He said the SSS reluctantly agreed to his proposal for a P1,000 increase but as long as the board would be given powers to increase members’ contributions.

“My formula is to give a P1,000 minimum but with the SSS being given the same powers as the GSIS,” he said, referring to the Government Service Insurance System.

He said the GSIS has been active in the legislative proceedings allowing it over the years to be given more leeway in managing the fund.

He said SSS executives, however, were not as enthusiastic, especially during the deliberations on House Bill 6112, which seeks to rationalize the powers, duties and accountabilities of the Social Security Commission and amend the Social Security Act of 1997.

The House in November last year approved the measure shortly after the chamber passed the P2,000 pension increase.

The Senate, however, failed to the pass the counterpart measure, which prompted Aquino to veto the pension increase.

An infographic released by Malacañang warned that allowing the proposed P2,000 increase in retirees pension would compel the government to impose additional taxes as well as raise SSS contributions.

“The budget for other projects will be reduced or taxes will be increased to cover for the losses of the SSS,” read a portion of the infographic on the government portal gov.ph.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended Aquino’s veto, saying the government has “consistently worked toward providing better services for the elderly” over the past five and a half years.

Senate to blame

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said senators were to blame for President Aquino’s veto of the bill raising the monthly pension for retirees.

He said that while the Senate adopted the pension hike bill approved by congressmen, it did not pass an accompanying measure that would have mandated an increase in the monthly contribution of SSS members.

Had senators approved the increase in contribution, the President might have agreed with Congress on the need to adjust the SSS pension, he said.

He said there is still time for senators to act on the bill mandating an increase in contribution from members to fund a pension adjustment.

The proposal in the House was to increase members’ contribution to about five percent from the current rate of less than four percent. The employer’s share would be correspondingly adjusted.

In his veto message to the House, where the pension hike measure originated, Aquino said it would result in the collapse of the SSS as it did not have funding support.

More congressmen are supporting the President’s veto.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. lamented yesterday that Aquino is being “unfairly criticized for making a tough but right decision, which saved the SSS from potential bankruptcy.”

“A great leader makes hard decisions and sticks with it. That’s what our President does. P-Noy has never been a shirker when faced with difficult decisions, regardless of their political repercussions,” he said.

He said Aquino should be commended for showing resolve in going against popular but unsound pieces of legislation, “something that takes a lot of courage to do.”

“P-Noy has been drawing heavy flak again for making an unpopular but right decision. Such a ‘Solomonic’ act should be appreciated because the country will be the one to benefit in the long run,” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said a congressional override of the President’s veto of the bill on pension hike would have to be approved first by the House of Representatives before the Senate could do anything about this. – With Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Marvin Sy, Mayen Jaymalin, Jess Diaz, Danny Dangcalan












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