‘Override of SSS pension veto just for show’

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The move of 57 congressmen to override President Aquino’s veto of the P2,000 social security pension increase bill was just for public consumption or political purposes, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday.

“That override thing was just for show or the launching of a political candidacy. They even brought their own audience,” he told reporters.

He was referring to scores of senior citizens who trooped to the House of Representatives on Wednesday night, expecting that a vote on the override proposal would be taken.

The House adjourned session without calling the roll of members and without tackling the “veto Aquino’s veto” proposal.

Senior citizens and pensioners from the Social Security System (SSS) were apparently invited by proponents of the move to overturn Aquino’s veto of the SSS pension increase bill.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares is the principal author of the measure. He is seeking a Senate seat in the May elections.

He said in response to Belmonte’s statement: “I’m sure my colleagues know that whether I am running for the Senate or not, I will raise and fight for the SSS pension increase bill and other pro-people issues as a matter of principle.”

Aquino vetoed the SSS pension increase bill last month, saying it would have cost the SSS about P56 billion a year, while its investment income ranges from P30 billion to P40 billion only, or a deficit of P16 billion to P26 billion.

The pension increase for 2.15 million retirees would have eventually resulted in the collapse of the SSS pension fund to the detriment of its 31 million members, the President said.

Belmonte said Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II consulted him on the adjournment of session on Wednesday without the chamber discussing the override move.

“I agreed because the Senate had already adjourned its session. You need two chambers to overturn the veto. We chose not to discuss it. What would be accomplished if we did? Nothing. Maybe, we would just quarrel among ourselves,” he said.

Besides, he said he did not think that the override proponents would have obtained the 192 votes needed to set aside the presidential veto.

Belmonte conceded that “at some point, we had a quorum” on the last day of session of Congress.

Aside from Colmenares, Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, president of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), led the override proponents.

All 40 or so NPC members signed Colmenares’ override resolution.

A few signatories who came were members the ruling Liberal Party: Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, Roman Romulo of Pasig City, Rosemarie Arenas of Pangasinan and Manuel Iway of Negros Oriental.

There were three Lakas members who affixed their signatures: Diosdado Arroyo of Camarines Sur, Thelma Almario of Davao Oriental and Aleta Suarez of Quezon.

The rest came from the Zamora’s minority and the independent bloc.

The 57 were less than a third of the 192 votes required to reverse the presidential veto.

Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay, a signatory of the resolution, said he felt bad that the House opted to adjourn session on Wednesday night without tackling the override initiative.

“I concede that there was no quorum and that the override move would not have prospered, but at least we should have debated it. We intended to convince our colleagues to vote with us in overturning the veto. The majority disrespected us – those in the minority – by arbitrarily adjourning the session,” he said.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe said he agreed with the decision of House leaders to terminate session without the chamber taking up the override proposal.

“The debates would have been useless and a waste of time. The suggestion to overturn the veto had no support from members in the first place. Even if we had a quorum of 144 and all of those present voted to override, the result would have been short of the 192 votes required under the Constitution,” he said.

Atienza disagreed, saying that debates in Congress are not useless.

“The legislature is partly a debating forum. We debate the issues so we can convince our colleagues to vote one way or another,” he said.

Colmenares said he and his colleagues would continue soliciting the support of House members for an override vote when Congress resumes session after the elections in May.

For failing to override the presidential veto on the SSS pension hike, most of the congressmen seeking reelection in the May 9 polls are not getting the votes of workers.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said workers will show their disgust by not voting for congressmen who did not support the proposed measure providing for P2,000 increase in monthly pension of SSS members.

“With the daylight mockery Aquino and his Congress lapdogs have done to us, it is rest assured that they will receive no support from thousands of workers and citizens as they vote in May – if they still cling to the hope brought upon by the elections,” KMU said in a statement.  – With Mayen Jaymalin















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