SSS urged: Strip execs of stock market profits
Delon Porcalla (Associated Press) - November 5, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — All the personal earnings of the four Social Security System officials involved in unlawful stock trading should be emptied if only to reassure SSS members that their funds remain intact amid plans to increase their contributions.

This was the advice given by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability, to the SSS under chairman Amado Valdez and commissioner Jose Gabriel La Viña.

Both Valdez and La Viña – appointees of President Duterte – revealed that the senior officials are accused of “serious dishonesty and grave misconduct.”

They have filed a complaint against Rizaldy Capulong, SSS executive vice president for investments, equities investment division chief Reginald Candelaria, equities product development head Ernesto Francisco Jr. and chief actuary George Ongkeko Jr.

Ongkeko and Francisco have since resigned from their posts.

“This is the right thing to do – for them to be constrained to empty out their pockets of their dishonest earnings. Those profits rightfully belong to and should go to the SSS,” Pimentel said.

“We support SSS commissioner La Viña’s strong views on this matter. There should be no pussyfooting here. Heads must roll where they should,” the administration lawmaker said.

The Bureau of Immigration has been asked to issue lookout bulletin orders upon the instructions of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II so as to prevent the four SSS officials accused of illegal stock trading from leaving the country.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said while there have been no indictments yet, the Department of Justice should nevertheless monitor the movements of these officials to “prevent them from evading criminal or administrative liability.”

An Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order is issued against a suspect in a crime while no cases have yet been filed in court. It can be upgraded to a hold-departure order once an indictment is made, and a judge issues such an order.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone earlier said the committee on banks and financial intermediaries will investigate the allegations that four state pension fund officials have been using their positions for personal gain by engaging in unlawful stock trading.

“Congress, in the exercise of its oversight functions, will investigate the alleged anomalies in the SSS on the trading of its stocks,” Evardone said.

“Aside from the issue of corruption, we will try to find out if SSS funds, which are owned by millions of members, were not lost in the transactions, especially in light of the proposed increase in members’ contributions,” he added.

“We should safeguard the SSS funds to ensure its viability and enable it to pay its obligations to its members,” the Visayan senior administration lawmaker said in a Viber message to House reporters.

Evardone issued the statement following pronouncements made by Valdez and La Viña exposing the alleged irregularities committed by senior officials.

Castelo, chairman of the House committee on Metro Manila development, lauded La Viña for coming forward to expose irregularities in the agency and urged more government officials to act as watchdogs of public funds.

La Viña, who was Duterte’s social media director during the May 2016 elections, heads the SSS Investment Oversight Committee. He said the SSS-commissioned stockbroker conducts a briefing monthly on the stock market and initial public offerings.

Valdez and La Viña disclosed that these officials have been using their official position by trading stocks for their personal accounts, and have been using the same stockbrokers who manage the portfolio of the state-administered pension fund.

Valdez, a former law dean, assured SSS members, however, that their funds are intact and have not been jeopardized by the alleged malfeasance.

“We also want to know whether there’s any outside influence involved,” he said.

La Viña acknowledged that the problem about these officials is that they have a major role in approving stockbrokers and allocating trades. Accrediting SSS stockbrokers gave the officials a large degree of leverage with brokerage houses lobbying for an account.

The SSS manages almost P500 billion in assets, accumulated through the mandatory monthly contributions of its 35 million members who are employees in the private sector.

Up to 30 percent of the reserve fund can be invested in the equities market, subject to strict criteria set by the fund’s investment oversight committee which La Viña heads.

He explained that the previous SSS administration had tried to head off potential abuses by officials in the fund’s investments unit by requiring them to declare all their investments and having these approved by their superiors.

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