Ombudsman asked: Look into SSS mess

- Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2016 - 9:00am

EVEN without raising by P2,000 the monthly pension of retired Social Security System members, the fragile SSS setup is bound to collapse under the weight of inefficiency and mismanagement.

So said businessman Augusto L. Syjuco Jr. in a complaint filed yesterday with the Office of the Ombudsman with an urgent request that the financial condition of the system be investigated to protect the interest of its 33 million members and 2.15 million pensioners.

Syjuco said if the inefficiency and malpractices in the SSS are not immediately addressed, the unstable system could collapse in the hands of the new administration that will take over in July.

Returning unapproved to the Congress House Bill 5842 mandating a P2,000 increase in SSS pensions, President Noynoy Aquino explained that the added expense would result in the social security fund’s depletion by 2029, much earlier than the projected 2042.

Data supplied by the SSS showed that average revenues had more than tripled to P33 billion since 2010, while assets went up by half to P447 billion as of October last year.

Despite the growth in revenues and assets, SSS President/CEO Emilio de Quiros Jr. said such gains could be reversed if pensions were raised without a commensurate increase in contributions.

Collection efficiency has been estimated at only 38 percent. The enrolled bill submitted to President Aquino for signature did not specify or assure a source for the funds needed for the proposed increase in monthly pensions.

Syjuco described as misleading the President’s claim that SSS funds could dry up by 2029 if the P2,000 pension increase would be implemented.

Showing his calculations, the businessman warned: “If the additional P2,000 is given, the SSS could dry up in three months, not in 2029. And if not given, SSS would collapse in one year under the next administration.”

In his complaint with the Ombudsman, Syjuco said the President’s veto has exposed the precarious financial condition of the SSS under his managers.

He remarked: “Is SSS going bankrupt? What had it been doing with the members’ contributions? Has it played with the money by investing it in putrid stocks or in questionable business activities? Conclusively, going bankrupt is a matter of inefficiency in management.”

He said the SSS should be investigated for the: Low collection efficiency rate, fat bonuses for its officials, laxity in the collection of billions in contributions that delinquent employers had failed to remit, retirement packages worth unconscionable millions given to SSS board members, and the non-collection of fines imposed by the courts against employers who had violated the SSS law.

Based on the Commission on Audit’s annual report, he said, SSS officials are among the top paid government personnel. He noted:

“In 2014, SSS President De Quiros earned P6.84 million, which included a P2.25-million bonus. In 2013, he received a total of P7.1 million which included a P1.9-million bonus and P3.4 million in allowances. In addition, SSS paid millions to two executive vice presidents, seven senior vice presidents, 16 vice presidents and eight members of the board of directors.”

• Poe presses inhibition of Carpio

THE SUPREME Court will hear today oral arguments and move closer to deciding whether or not Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares is qualified to run for president as a natural-born Filipino and as a 10-year legal resident of the Philippines.

On the eve of the hearing, Poe’s camp reiterated its plea for the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, one of three SC justices who had voted in the Senate Electoral Tribunal to disqualify the senator.

Poe’s lawyers said Carpio is obviously biased and has prejudged the disqualification petitions filed on appeal with the High Court.

They also recalled that in 2004, an inquiry of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws stopped short of implicating Carpio in what they described as a grand scheme to dupe voters.

They pointed to findings in the Senate hearings on the disqualification complaint against then presidential aspirant Fernando Poe Jr. (“FPJ,” Grace’s adoptive father) that they said were an “embarrassment” for Carpio.

A witness testifying under oath pointed at Carpio as a likely accomplice in the forgery of documents upon which hinged the attempt to disqualify FPJ as presidential candidate.

Three National Archives workers under then director Ricardo Manapat (he died Dec. 24, 2008) swore that they were ordered by him to produce a forged marriage contract between FPJ’s father and one Paulita Gomez.

The workers said they secured pre-World War II birth certificates and marriage contracts, scanned them, and altered the pertinent data using computers to make it appear that FPJ’s father was married to Paulita Gomez.

The faked document was used as basis for the FPJ disqualification case that one lawyer Victorino X. Fornier filed with the Commission on Elections.

Remmel Talabis of Manapat’s staff testified that four days before the FPJ disqualification case was filed, he delivered a “sealed brown envelope” to Carpio at his Supreme Court office. That was on Jan. 5, 2004, the same day he printed out a copy of the forged Poe-Gomez marriage contract, he said on instruction of Manapat.

The Senate committee report said “the insinuation is hard to ignore,” referring to Carpio’s possible involvement in the scheme. The committee added, however, that the evidence was not sufficient to pin him down.

In 2004, the Supreme Court threw out, on an 8-5 vote, the Fornier claim that FPJ was an American.

It is intriguing that a Fornier brother named Andresito had also produced a birth certificate from the National Archives that showed then 1998 presidential candidate Alfredo S. Lim was a Chinese – a claim that contributed to his defeat in his presidential bid.

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ADVISORY: Access past Postscripts archived at www.manilamail.com (if necessary, copy/paste url on address bar). Follow us via Twitter.com/@FDPascual. Email feedback to dikpascual@gmail.com.

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