Hunger, anxiety, confusion over new SSS pension rule
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Mike, a Filipino friend in his mid-'70s, emailed Oct. 16 about being locked down in London by pandemic. Unperturbed about himself, he feared for an even older couple in the Philippines who, so dependent on but not receiving their monthly SSS pension since Sep. 26, had begun to miss meals. "The delayed pension payment is a meager P9,000," Mike wrote. "The spouses usually get it via UCPB ATM, but SSS suddenly changed the payout cycle. For weeks now their SSS branch has been telling them it's on the way. They were at the bank this morning and again in the afternoon, to no avail. What's going on?"

Between asking Mike about us possibly arranging their rescue and reading more readers' frantic emails about SSS pensions, I researched the issue. SSS indeed had revised its modes and schedules of retirees' pension releases. It was to start Oct. 1, the Philippine Information Agency announced that same day. The shift was to save time and money on check deliveries and encashment. Also, for fast, safe, contactless transmittals online.

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go... Aray! They then cause pain, hunger, anxiety, as with the SSS changes.

The mandatory provident mutual fund of private employees may have made all the requisite arrangements with DBP as new pension payor-bank. Still it apparently neglected some basics.

For one, SSS should have considered the characteristics of its clientele -- the elderly, in the case of retirees. Not everybody is techno-savvy to easily understand the presentation of the new rules. SSS' instructions and deadlines must have dazed the retirees so used to their set simple ways.

There should have been longer, wider reaching info drive about the changes. Seniors, me included, need more time to digest not only what we eat but also hear for the first time. Technicalese needs to be consulted with offspring and grandchildren. There's also the matter of careful scheduling of trips to the bank to register the new SSS requirements. IATF's stay-home rules for the aged are strict.

There should have been dry-runs to fix the bugs before full implementation of the new setup. Also, feedback mechanisms to monitor the ease of doing business. Going by retirees' complaints and news reports, not a few of them had a harrowing time.

Mike emailed again early yesterday to update that the old couple finally got to withdraw their P9,000 in the afternoon of Oct. 17. "But the damage is done," he fretted. "How many others of the millions of SSS pensioners might have suffered from this sudden change?"

Plenty enough obviously -- to get the goat of Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo (Quezon City). Last week she called out SSS for the delays in and confusion with the pension payouts.

SSS immediately should resolve those issues, she said, citing reports that pensioners had flocked to the SSS assistance center in QC to plead for release of delayed pensions.

“These senior citizens should be staying home. By going out to inquire about pensions, they exposed themselves to COVID-19 infection,” Castelo said. “Our elderly need their monthly benefits, which are barely enough for their medicines."

Castelo said the confusion arose from the sudden alteration of pension payment schedules.

* * *

Congratulations, Ambassador Francis Chua, the first recipient of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Presidential Excellence Award. The award is the highest to be conferred by PCCI, the country’s biggest business organization.

Chua, PCCI Chairman Emeritus, was recognized for his "steadfast and unwavering commitment to the growth and development of the chamber movement and the Philippine business community, as well as his philanthropic contributions that impacted the lives of scholars, frontlines, public servants, and the less fortunate members of society."

The Honorary Consul General of Peru to the Philippines and formerly Manila’s special envoy to China, Chua is credited for his programs that solidified and sustained the financial growth of PCCI.

Chua was founding chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ICCP).

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book "Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government" is available on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/Amazon-Exposes

Paperback: https://tinyurl.com/Anvil-Exposes or at National Bookstores.

* * *

Gotcha archives: https://tinyurl.com/Gotcha-Archives

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