SSS Pension Hike

CONG. EMMELINE Y. AGLIPAY – VILLAR
Representative, DIWA Party-List

Congress of the Philippines                                                                                                       

 We Give the People What They Need and Deserve

Social security is supposed to ensure that everyone upon retirement will be able to sustain a decent and humane way of life. The idea behind the concept of social security is that upon having worked for decades, one has earned the right to be taken cared of by the government through pensions upon retirement.  Our Social Security System (SSS) declares as its policy the establishment and development of a sound and viable social security service which shall promote social justice and provide meaningful protection to members and their beneficiaries against the hazards of old age (Sec. 2, R.A. No. 1161, as amended).

 

For our senior citizens, the significance of social security and, consequently, the aforementioned SSS’s policy are supposed to reflect the proper recognition of their invaluable service to the nation. After all, decades of hard work spent as productive members of our society and key contributors to our national economy deserve the commitment of the State to rightfully reward them with a just and appropriate retirement pension.

 

At present, the minimum SSS pension received by our senior citizens per month is a meagre Php 1,200. It is the same amount received by them way back in 1997. Considering that inflation has substantially decreased the value of a Php 1,200 pension as well as increased the prices of basic necessities, saying that a Php 1,200 pension per month is not enough is an understatement. In fact, based on actual inflation figures from The World Bank, the value of Php 1,200 per month in 1997 is only worth Php 548.16 in 2014. Such is the plight of our senior citizens notwithstanding the fact that a decent living wage today for a single person is pegged at Php 5, 333 a month.

 

It is precisely for these reasons that the 16th Congress approved last year, by an overwhelming vote of 211-0, House Bill No. 5842, providing for a Php 2,000 across the board SSS pension increase which the Senate adopted en toto and approved last year by a vote of 15-1. Unfortunately, the President decided to veto the bill last January on the ground that if the Php 2,000 pension increase pushes through, the SSS fund life can only last until 2029. It is worth noting though that the bill was thoroughly deliberated and heard throughout almost 5 years of committee meetings and Technical Working Group consultations which took into account the position of the SSS, various employers and labor groups, as well as other government agencies. The argument that the SSS fund life can only last until 2029 is also being questioned by various senior citizens’ groups considering the fact that all social security systems around the world have their respective limited fund lives. In fact, the fund life of the social security systems of the United Kingdom and Canada are even shorter. According to their Government Actuary’s Department, the fund life of the social security system of the U.K. is only up to 2027. Canada’s fund life for their social security system is even shorter – until 2022 according to its latest Actuarial Report. Furthermore, it is legally improbable for the SSS to go bankrupt since Section 21 of R.A. No. 1161 or the Social Security Law, as amended, provides that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines accepts general responsibility for the solvency of the SSS. This means that under the law, the government itself is the guarantor of the SSS. Section 20 of the Social Security Law, as amended, also provides that Congress shall appropriate from time to time such sum or sums as may be needed to assure the maintenance of an adequate working balance of the funds of the SSS.

 

It is also worth noting that the SSS, as an institution, has failed to implement much needed structural and economic reforms for many years. This is the reason why the SSS has failed to remain true to its mandate of maintaining a humane pension system that is able to sustain a decent way of life for its pensioners. The pension hike would have been a non-issue if only SSS is able to collect SSS contributions from employers at an efficient rate. In a 2010 Senate press release, it was in fact revealed that during the deliberations on the SSS Condonation Law, the SSS has failed to collect an estimated Php 94 billion amount of receivables from unpaid contributions. In addition to this, delinquent employers as of December 31, 2010 have incurred total liabilities of Php 8.515 billion, excluding intermittently paying employers with total liabilities of Php 8.005 billion, according to a January 2013 SSS Report submitted to the House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization.

 

To make matters worse, the SSS continues to grant controversial and ridiculous bonuses to its board members. In 2012 for example, SSS President and CEO Emilio de Quiros Jr. has confirmed and even justified in several news articles the SSS bonuses awarded to its board members amounting to more than Php 1 million each. Just recently, a complaint for graft filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against officials of the SSS pointed out that in 2014, more than Php 116 million was paid to its senior executive officials.

 

I, along with most members of Congress, share the disappointment and frustration of our senior citizens over the failure of the SSS pension hike bill to pass into law. This notwithstanding, I choose to remain hopeful that we can still salvage the passage of this bill when Congress resumes its session this May. Although we are still short of the required 2/3 votes, there is still enough time to gather enough support. As of this writing, a total of 81 members of the House of Representatives have already expressed their sense to override the President’s veto of H.B. No. 5842. With the support of the millions of SSS pensioners, their dependents, and the Filipino people who will benefit from this proposed law, we will not be deterred in our drive to make the Php 2,000 pension increase a reality for our senior citizens.

 

The government should make every way possible to give our pensioners the pension increase that they rightly deserve instead of retreating right away and saying that it cannot be done.