NPC mulls overriding Noy veto of SSS bill
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the uproar over President Aquino’s veto of the proposed P2,000 hike in pension for retired members of the Social Security System (SSS), the country’s second biggest political party is considering calling for an override of the presidential rejection of the measure.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), through its president Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, has voiced support for the House measure raising the monthly pension for retirees.

In rejecting the pension adjustment, Aquino said the SSS would end up bankrupt if the retirement pension is increased.

Based on SSS data, 33 million members pay an average of P1,100 per month against the average P3,200 granted as pension to 2.15 million retirees and their dependents.

“Many party members understand that the eroding values of the present pension has made it difficult for many retirees to escape poverty,” Aggabao said.

“NPC may have to take a party stand to override the veto, should it come to that,” he said, adding increasing retirees’ pension “would provide a meaningful boost to their income.”

He stressed the NPC has supported the administration in its core priorities and would continue to work with it on matters like reforming the SSS to help pay for increased benefits.

The NPC’s statement came following calls for lawmakers to override Aquino’s veto. Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II earlier said there was no record of Congress overriding a vetoed measure.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the so-called House independent bloc, said SSS chief executive officer and president Emilio de Quiros Jr. should reconsider his outright rejection of possible pension increase in the remaining months of the Aquino administration.

He said the SSS should not ignore its over two million pensioners who were disheartened by the veto.

“The statement (no pension increase) is lamentable. It shows insensitivity and lack of compassion on the part of the government despite public uproar on the President’s decision vetoing a proposed law seeking a P2,000 monthly pension increase,” Romualdez said.

He asked the SSS to consult with the House leadership and work out a compromise, like reducing the proposed increase to P1,000.

“Our challenge is for the SSS and the government to reconsider their position. A small amount of increase is better than totally ignoring their plight,” he said.

‘Scare tactic’

Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, said the SSS was engaging in scare tactics with its claim that an increase in pension for retirees would leave its fund depleted.

He added a P2,000 increase in pension is doable and that the SSS was apparently misleading the President and the public to justify its refusal to raise the pension for retirees as well as gloss over its incompetence.

The senator, who is running for vice president in the coming elections, is also calling for an override of the presidential veto.

“The scare tactic of the SSS is that an increase in the pension of retirees would wipe out its funds and that it would go bankrupt. I believe this is just an excuse,” Escudero said.

He also argued that the bankruptcy threat was baseless because the government, under Republic Act No. 8282 or the Social Security Act of 1997, has the obligation to allocate funds should the SSS suffer from insufficient funding brought about by pension increase.

“The solvency of SSS is guaranteed by the government. This means it may infuse funds to the SSS to strengthen its fund life, as well as its capacity to provide services to its members,” he said.

The senator stressed SSS itself was to blame for its financial troubles as it failed to institute major institutional reforms.

The problems, he added, include the failure of past and present SSS officials to establish an efficient system of collecting contributions from employers, many of whom failed to remit their employees’ share.

Fat bonuses

Escudero said the SSS should also look for ways to help financially troubled members instead of focusing on giving fat bonuses to its executives.

“All it takes is for the SSS to be more innovative and focused on fixing the inefficiencies that impede them from giving retirees in the private sector the much-needed increase in their monthly pension,” he said.

In 2009, Escudero recalled that the SSS reported its failure to collect P94 billion from employers.

Based on a 2013 report of the SSS, Escudero said there were 174,985 delinquent employers with total liabilities of P8.515 billion as of Dec. 31, 2010. The number did not include the 131,907 intermittently paying and delinquent employers with total liabilities of P8.005 billion.

SSS failed to collect P13 billion from delinquent employers in 2014 while its outstanding member loans amounted to P64.01 billion, of which P19.407 billion represents loans that have not been paid for more than five years.

Meanwhile, militant workers’ group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said Aquino’s rejection of the proposed pension would deal a death blow to the administration’s chances in the May elections.

“We warn him that he will end his term in further infamy and that his anointed candidates will lose if he carries out this scheme,” KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis said in a statement.

He said Aquino appeared to be trying to condition the mind of the public that SSS has insufficient funds to cover the proposed increase in the monthly pension of retirees.

“We have every reason to believe that the Aquino government wants SSS pensioners, senior citizens, their families, workers and the poor to accept current pension levels or they are conditioning the public to accept a meager pension hike that will fully be shouldered by SSS members through a premium hike,” Adonis pointed out.

He noted that immediately after Aquino’s veto of the proposed measure, his allies floated the idea of an executive action to raise pension by only P500 to P1,000.

He said SSS members, especially pensioners, should press the government for the granting of P2,000 pension hike.

“Let us not be fooled by the lies and empty promises of the Aquino government. Let us continue joining protests and other activities and let us continue speaking up for our demand,” he said. – Marvin Sy, Mayen Jaymalin

ACIRC AQUINO DEPUTY SPEAKER AND ISABELA REP FERDINAND MARTIN ROMUALDEZ FRANCIS ESCUDERO GIORGIDI AGGABAO GOVERNMENT INCREASE PENSION RETIREES SSS
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