THE Associated Labor Unions (ALU) lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for approving a one thousand-peso increase in the pension of 2.3 million retired members of the Social Security System (SSS).
“We thank President Rodrigo Duterte for listening to the needs of pensioners. We welcome this as it is an answer to the promise he made to pensioners during the campaign. It will help pensioners to cope with some but not all of the burdens caused by rising prices of basic commodities and cost of services,” ALU spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.
However, the ALU argued that the government should have fixed the system first and instituted reforms within SSS before requiring new contributions from 14 million paying members out of the 34 million registered members.
Tanjusay said the SSS management should institute reforms within the system. The SSS must trim down excessive bonuses and perks for all its top executives, improve its collection efficiency by pinning down non-remitting employers, stop corruption within and pursue the cases of 7,000 delinquent employers now pending in the courts.
“There would be significant improvement in the life fund of SSS if these reforms are enforced. Resorting to quick fix and the path of least resistance raises doubts about SSS commisisoners’ ability to trim corporate fat. We suggest that President Duterte direct the SSS to open their books and consult with workers since it’s workers’ money that the SSS is doing placements with,” Tanjusay said.
He said the workers’ daily wage purchasing power is reduced by at least 30% in the face of prices of basic commodities and cost of services. There are also impending big-time increases in the cost of electricity and water utilities.
Premium hike nixed
While militant solons lauded the approval of the pension hike for the private workers, they are opposing the increase in the payment of contributions of the SSS members.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlo Isagani Zarate and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao are urging the SSS officials to look for ways to fund the pension increase.
For the two solons, increasing the monthly contributions of the current members should not be the option.
“Bayan Muna will also help the SSS Board in finding ways to lengthen its fund life without increasing SSS contributions,” Zarate said.
“Bayan Muna will continue to push for more reforms and for the earlier implementation of the second P1,000 tranche of the increase,” he added.
For his part, Casilao said President Rodrigo Duterte had decided morally to heed the call of SSS pensioners, their family and all those who supported the increase in the monthly pension of retirees.
Casilao is thankful for the increase but said the fight will continue until the next second tranche of P1, 000 is given to the pensioners.
Casilao also urged SSS members to oppose the planned increase in contributions from 11 percent to 12.5 percent or an increase of 1.5 percent in the members’ monthly contributions.
Senators hail, buck hike
Senator Franklin Drilon said the planned 1.5 percent increase in the monthly contribution of current SSS members starting May 2017 will violate the law since it is not allowed to raise the premium rates so it can increase benefits.
Sen.Richard Gordon, on the other hand, hailed the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to approve the P2,000 increase in the monthly pension of retired SSS members in two tranches.
The 2.18 million SSS pensioners are expected to receive their P1,000 increase while the second tranche of P1,000 will be available sometime either in 2019 or 2022 depending on the financial status of SSS.
Senators Bam Aquino and Chiz Escudero also expressed some reservations over the reported increase of the monthly contribution of the present SSS members to ensure the SSS will not go bankrupt
Drilon rejected the plan to raise the rate of monthly contribution of SSS members to finance the Duterte administration’s decision to increase the benefits of its roughly two million pensioners.
“While the Executive’s decision to finally grant the long-awaited increase in the pension of SSS retirees is commendable, it should not be used to justify an increase in the premium payment,” he said.
Drilon said Republic Act No. 8282 prohibits SSS to recommend increase in benefits that would require an increase in contribution.
Escudero said SSS officials “should explain and justify that to the members, backed up by actuarial studies, the need to increase the monthly contribution.”
“They should also prove that their previous investments and collection efficiency, which is very low, have improved and that the latter two are not enough to support the additional benefit,” said Escudero.