Presidential veto of SSS pension hike highlights anti-labor policy
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 15, 2016 - 9:00am

If the late TUCP president Democrito T. Mendoza were alive and kicking today, he would be the first one to raise a big howl against what Malacañang did when President Benigno S. Aquino III vetoed the approved bill raising the pensions of SSS retirees. This president would perhaps fit the tagline as the most anti-labor president that this country has ever elected into office. President Ferdinand E. Marcos was called a dictator but he was the one who ordered the codification of the Labor Code and granted tremendous labor standards benefits to the workers. This president has disapproved all proposals to raise wages and improve the terms and conditions of the working class.

President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino was a rich scion of the landed haciendero family from Tarlac, but she has had some landmark social legislations passed under her administration. That includes the CARP or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and the CARL, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Of course, under her son's administration, the chief justice of the land, Renato Corona was impeached for, among others, signing a decision that ordered the Hacienda Luisita to be distributed after too many delays, and after too many attempts to dilute its purpose and contents. Under this administration, the hacienderos have continued in their blatant refusal to implement the law. Of course, the president belongs to their class. The president is against tax reduction and now against pension increase.

Under President Fidel V. Ramos, we have passed the milestone labor legislation, amending the Labor Code, the RA 8042, the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers. Under the Aquino administration, there is an utter neglect of the Filipino migrant workers. It is under this administration that controversies involving embassy officials were exposed allegedly involving sex in exchange for plane tickets. Nothing came out of the many investigations conducted at the height of the controversies. Today, thousands of OFWs are languishing in foreign detention cells, many have died, have been raped, maltreated, and a number of them are still being exploited. Right now, there are more than 20 nurses in Kuwait whose rights were allegedly violated by their employers and recruiters. The government seems to be unmoved, unaffected, and uncaring.

During the time of the late president Erap, albeit it was quite short, thanks to GMA, there were many pro-labor initiatives undertaken by the Erap administration. Today, there are no draconian measures that can be claimed by the Aquino government as milestone improvement of labor standards and labor relations. This government is pro-management, pro-business, pro-foreign investment but definitely anti Filipino labor. Wages are pegged below the level of the living wage. Benefits are maintained at levels more than ten years ago. I was surprised by the presidential veto of what Congress and the Senate approved.

The Senate is controlled by the Liberals, with the Senate president having been a very eminent secretary of Labor and Secretary of Justice later. The House is also controlled by the Liberals with the Speaker, Feliciano Belmonte Jr. being a very good employer himself. Why has the president practically insulted the senators and the congressmen who approved the bill on the increase of the SSS retirees' pensions? The SSS executives are being paid handsomely, with tremendous perks and allowances. They were given very substantial bonuses, millions per board member. These are the technocrats who poisoned the mind of the president and issued an imaginary threat of the SSS fund being jeopardized by a few thousand pesos to be given to the seniors who are receiving measly pensions.

That is why I miss Noy Kito Mendoza because it was only he, along with the voices from the KMU and AnakBayan and Bayan Muna activists and street parliamentarians who were bold enough to stand up to imperialistic Malacañang. The senators and the congressmen are the voices of the people. The president has opted to go against the voice of the people. He shuns such maxims as "The voice of the people is the voice of God," and "the welfare of the people is the supreme law.'' Therefore, the people might probably hit back by rejecting the administration's bet come the May polls. By this veto, Mar Roxas has lost no less than five million votes from the retirees and their families and relatives. At least, the people now know that their president is not for their well-being and welfare. That, to me, is what matters most.

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