SSS slams report on P325-B uncollected revenue

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Social Security System head Emilio De Quiros Jr. decried yesterday what he described as misleading and inaccurate reports that the SSS has failed to collect P325 billion in revenues.

In a letter to The STAR, he denied writing a letter to the House of Representatives showing his agency’s failure to collect the P325 billion.

This, he pointed out, was actually contained in a letter written by former SSS chief Romulo Neri on Sept. 23, 2008 and addressed to Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, who then chaired the technical working group and the committee on government enterprises and privatization.

“At the expense of the SSS Fund and the actively paying SSS members and pensioners who were pitted against each other by a fundamentally flawed legislative initiative, only the individuals with their own agenda would be smiling, secure in their thought that they have, through good or biased reporting, in one way or another, swayed and cornered the electoral votes in their favor,” De Quiros wrote, in apparent reference to Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares who has called for an increase in SSS retirees’ monthly pension.

De Quiros lamented the “selective” pursuit of truth and slammed STAR reporters Jess Diaz and Michael Punongbayan for failing to check their data.

“The banner in yesterday’s Philippine STAR issue is an indictment against SSS and myself that would have fooled the undiscerning… Whatever damage to the SSS institution and to my person that was caused by your biased reporting could no longer be undone,” De Quiros wrote. “People will resultantly entertain the wrong impression against SSS and myself based on the unupdated and unverified figures that you cited.”

Diaz explained that his story was based on the statements of Colmenares given during a press conference at the House on Wednesday.

“It was Rep. Colmenares who said the SSS letter informing congressmen that SSS had P325 billion in ‘uncollected revenues’ came from Mr. de Quiros,” Diaz stressed.

Diaz noted that the huge collectible was also acknowledged by Marissu Bugante, SSS vice president for public affairs, in a letter sent to The STAR on Thursday.

Bugante said the P325 billion “refers to the uncollected revenues in 2008 mentioned in a letter to… Tañada as basis for the contribution penalty condonation law implemented in 2010.”

“Ms. Bugante said the contribution delinquency, per the Commission on Audit report of 2013, had fallen to P13.5 billion. She also confirmed the other figures mentioned in our story,” Diaz said. “The story was a fair and accurate reporting of what transpired in the news conference. There was no bias in it.”

Meanwhile, more House leaders are backing efforts to override President Aquino’s veto of the proposed P2,000 pension increase.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, independent bloc leader, appealed to his colleagues to support the override and ignore the negative idea that it is a long shot and an exercise in futility.

“We can weather the storm and win an uphill battle, especially if our cause is about championing people’s interests as a show of compassion to their welfare. All we need is to show a strong political will with our sincere desire to serve public interest,” Romualdez said.

He would also back proposals to ensure the “financial viability of SSS to serve its millions of members in the future.”

“Whatever the outcome will be, people will see that Congress tried its very best to champion their interest and that is important,” Romualdez added.

Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, chairman of the House committee on higher and technical education, said he is also backing the plan to override the veto, lamenting that the ruling majority has “bowed to the will of Malacañang.”

He pointed out that this is the second time Congress reversed its position on legislative measures that aim to expand the benefits arising from a strengthening of the economy to the toiling majority.

The first was the junking of the proposed income tax cuts by Congress after opposition from the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

“Our credibility as an institution, as one of the three pillars of government, has been eroded because we do not stand by our word,” Romulo said.

He said the veto could have been averted had Aquino regularly convened the Legislative-Executive Advisory Council (LEDAC) as mandated by law. LEDAC is a mechanism to iron out differences between the two branches of government on legislation.

Militant workers staged a rally yesterday at the gates of Congress in Quezon City to urge lawmakers to override the presidential veto.

Leody de Guzman, president of the Buklurang Maggagawang Pilipino (BMP), called on legislators to alleviate the hardships of 1.9 million Filipinos who barely survive on a measly P1,200 monthly pension at the twilight of their lives.

“If you are truly representatives of the people, you must, at the very least, have the heart for those who dutifully contributed to the social welfare fund in the hope of living decently upon retirement. The current minimum pension of P1,200 is not even half the cost of living of P5,333 per individual,” said de Guzman.

The labor leader asserted that the SSS has sufficient funds to provide for the increase, “especially if it would increase the collection rate from the present 35 to 38 percent and by reducing the administrative and operating costs of the social welfare fund.”

“It is the height of injustice that the SSS executives are receiving millions in bonuses despite their obvious inefficiency and lack of regard for the welfare of the millions of its now destitute member-contributors,” de Guzman stressed. – Non Alquitran, Paolo Romero

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