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PRESIDENTIAL VETO: NOY REJECTED SSS PENSION INCREASE


JANUARY 15 -Cheers. President Benigno Aquino III leads the traditional New Year toast during the 29th Vin d’ Honneur in Malacañang on Thursday. Malacañang Photo Bureau 
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III vetoed a bill Thursday that would have raised Social Security System pensions by P2,000 a month across the board, and increased the minimum monthly pension from P1,200 to P3,200, arguing that the move would deplete the agency’s funds in 13 years. The veto was criticized by lawmakers who slammed the President’s lack of compassion for pensioners and their dependents. “The President has informed Congress… that he has vetoed the enrolled House Bill No. 5842, which provides for a P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly pension of Social Security System [SSS] pensioners and adjustment of the minimum monthly pension from P1,200 to P3,200, for members who have contributed the equivalent of 10 credited years of service [CYS], and from P2,400 to P4,000, for those with at least 20 CYS,” a statement released by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.  “In his message, President Aquino said the stability of the entire SSS benefit system, whose present membership comprises about 31-million individuals, will be seriously compromised in favor of two million pensioners and their dependents,” the statement said. In a press briefing, Coloma said the SSS would run out of funds in 13 years if the bill was passed. “We have 2.1-million SSS members who are receiving pension and if each one would receive the proposed P2,000 a month increase, times 13 months, the amount we are looking at is P56 billion a year,” Coloma said. “And the immediate effect on this is that funds will be depleted for the 31-million members in 2029 or 13 years from now.” Coloma said the responsibility of the government is to ensure the increase could be justified. The stability of the SSS also had to be ensured so that the majority of members—particularly the retirees—would benefit. “The government would be irresponsible if it allowed the depletion of the funds,” Coloma said. The SSS, he added, is studying other measures to increase benefits to its members, without hurting its stability. Asked if the move would hurt the President politically, Coloma said the long-term effects of his decisions were more important. He said the Palace would leave it to Congress, if it wanted to override the veto with a two-thirds vote. Coloma also denied allegations by the Kilusang Mayo Uno that the problem was that the government failed to collect SSS contributions from several employers. “The truth is the collection efficiency improved. From 2010 up to 2014, net revenue increased. During the five-year period [2010-2014], the average was P33 billion compared to the average of only P8 billion from 2000 to 2009. So their allegations have no basis at all,” Coloma said. The proof is there is a 50-percent growth in assets in the last five years, he added. READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino, SSS brass hit on pension hike veto


JANUARY 16 -PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III and top officials of the Social Security System came under withering fire Friday after the President vetoed a bill that would have raised pensions across-the-board for retirees by P2,000.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano called on legislators to end the executive branch’s legacy of vetoing important laws by overriding Aquino’s veto. “It is time for Congress to stand up for our millions of pensioners and give them the pension that they need,” Cayetano said. “We must stand up against the executive’s awesome powers and ensure the passage of important laws that will help alleviate the lives of our people and show that we are the people’s voice and not just a rubber stamp of Malacañang,” he added. Cayetano said social security is meant to help pensioners after their retirement cope with the costs of living without their regular salaries. “But what good is social security if what they get is so low that it cannot even meet their barest needs?” he said. Heading home. Vice President Jejomar Binay ​meets with five Filipino workers whom he ​​will be bringing home from the Dubai International Airport​. Binay has been in the United Arab Emirates since Tuesday, holding dialogs with Filipino workers and UAE officials on investments, job opportunities and workers’ welfare.​ Cayetano, who is running for vice president, also noted that Aquino had blocked social legislation such as the Magna Carta for the poor and the lowering of income tax rates for working Filipinos. Cayetano vowed to lead the charge in mobilizing the legislature, which need a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate, to override the veto. “For the sake of our struggling people, I will do everything in my power to counter this veto. It is an uphill battle but a fight that must be waged nonetheless. We owe it to the people, especially the vulnerable such as the elderly, the sick and the unemployed,” Cayetano said. In his veto message, Aquino said the stability of the entire benefit system would be “seriously compromised” if the proposed pension hike were implemented. But Cayetano said Aquino’s fear was based on the wrong assumptions, and that the SSS should have institutionalized long overdue reforms such as increasing its rate of contribution collection and expanding its investment reserves. The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan tore into officials of the SSS for insulting its members and pensioners by receiving “fat paychecks and bonuses” after insisting to President Aquino that the pension funds would be depleted by the proposed P2,000 increase. READ MORE...

ALSO: PNoy defends decision to veto SSS pension increase
[“So ‘heartless’ ako ngayon. Kung 2027 nabangkarote ‘yan, ‘yung 30 million or more—by that time siyempre more than 30 million—ang magsasabi naman careless ako and heartless at the same time [I may be called heartless now but once it goes bankrupt in 2027, more than 30 million members will call me careless and heartless at the same time],” Aquino said.]


JANUARY 15 -President Benigno S. Aquino III ( MB File Photo by Richard V. Viñas) President Benigno S. Aquino III ( MB File Photo by Richard V. Viñas)
He may be criticized for being “heartless” in blocking a proposed Social Security System (SSS) pension increase but President Aquino refused to be called “careless” if he lets the pension agency fall into financial ruin. The President has defended his decision to veto a bill seeking a P2,000 across-the-board increase for SSS pensioners, saying it was not made out of whim but by careful study. Aquino, speaking to reporters during visit to Bulacan province, warned of imminent bankruptcy of SSS if the pension hike is approved. He said proposed increase may benefit the 2 million SSS pensioners but will “negatively” impact the 31 million individual members in the long run. “So ‘heartless’ ako ngayon. Kung 2027 nabangkarote ‘yan, ‘yung 30 million or more—by that time siyempre more than 30 million—ang magsasabi naman careless ako and heartless at the same time [I may be called heartless now but once it goes bankrupt in 2027, more than 30 million members will call me careless and heartless at the same time],” Aquino said. “Hindi kapritso ‘to. Pinag-aralan at ibabangkarote mo ‘yung SSS ‘pag pinasukan ‘to by 2027. At siguro maski sinong mamamahala ng gobyerno, importante na may commitment and estado, in this case the SSS, na agency ng gobyerno na ibigay sa iyo ‘yung benepisyong pinangako sa iyo [This was not made out of whim. It was carefully studied. SSS will go bankrupt by 2027. For any government leader, it is important that the State, in this case, the SSS, a government agency, to provide the benefits promised to you],” he added. Aquino admitted that he could have tried to earn brownie points and pass the bill but as father of the nation, he must consider the long-term stability of the SSS. “Pwede akong magpapogi, tulungan ‘yung endorsement ko sa lahat, at total naman 2027 baka nakalimutan na ako doon e hindi na ako masisi. Sisisihin na lang ang kung sino man ang namamahala sa atin doon [I could earn brownie points, boost my endorsement of candidates and besides people would have forgotten me by 2027 and will not blame me. They will just blame the current leader by then],” Aquino said. “Pero tama ba ‘yon na dadalhin ko ang taumbayan sa direksyon na magiging kapahamakan nila? [But is it right to bring our people to a direction that will put them at risk?],” he added. The President has drawn public anger over his decision to block the proposed pension increase in the SSS. Aquino earlier used his veto power against the SSS pension hike proposal due to concerns that it would weaken the financial viability of the SSS. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Win-win’ measures eyed for SSS


JANUARY 17 -Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said that while disappointment over the veto could not be avoided, there were others who understood President Aquino’s reasons for vetoing House Bill No. 5842, which allows a monthly across-the-board increase of P2,000 in retirees’ pension. Philstar.com/File
After drawing flak for the presidential veto of a measure granting higher pension to retirees, Malacañang is appealing to the public for better understanding as it seeks a “win-win” position for both the Social Security System (SSS) and its members.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said that while disappointment over the veto could not be avoided, there were others who understood President Aquino’s reasons for vetoing House Bill No. 5842, which allows a monthly across-the-board increase of P2,000 in retirees’ pension. “We should understand the President’s reasoning for this. The (pension) fund has the obligation to pay all of us SSS members... and our other benefits,” Quezon said. “There’s a way to do it where it will be win-win for everyone while being responsible in ensuring the stability and actuarial life of SSS,” he pointed out. The government has said the pension increase requires higher premiums from members. A senator said yesterday the increase in each member’s contributions could be about P100 a month. Critics, on the other hand, claim the pension increase is not possible because the SSS is on the brink of bankruptcy. The critics say there is no need for an increase in members’ contributions if the SSS had invested its funds wisely. SSS officials have also been criticized for their paychecks and fat bonuses. “I think everyone’s lesson from this is, number one, the evaluation of numbers must be quite more realistic,” Quezon told radio station dzRB yesterday. He said all sectors must work together even more to address all issues so that misunderstanding could be avoided. “Based on the study of SSS, to match the P56 billion to be released for the proposed P2,000, the sum total of what you have to pay must increase by 40 percent to 44 percent,” he said. “And then we would have to start considering that there might be need to provide additional subsidy or funds from the national government for this and then that would have an effect on other programs.” “It’s quite complicated to discuss but it’s possible,” Quezon said. In November, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House of Representatives passed HB No. 6112 as twin or sister bill of HB 5842 to make sure that the SSS would not go bankrupt with the P2,000 increase in the pension of senior citizens. READ MORE...\

ALSO: By Marlen Ronquillp - Mr. Aquino’s universe, pensioners (and the vulnerable) are moochers


JANUARY 16 -by MARLEN V. RONQUILLO
What people do not get about Mr. Aquino is this. He is essentially a Randian. The strong, the masters of the universe, are his heroes. The weak and the vulnerable are, in his version of the world, moochers–that are to be swatted like flies or cockroaches. We just don’t know at what stage of his life did he imbibe an overdose of John Galt. What we know is that he has applied his beliefs that the world is divided between the strong and the moochers in his governing philosophy. So the proposed small hike in the pension of SSS members in the national budget, a meager rise of P2,000 a month per member, really had no chance of getting the signature of Mr. Aquino. Anything that represents a small break for the vulnerable is the equivalent of a gift to moochers. That’s a no-no to Mr. Aquino. With a cowardly Congress lacking the numbers to override, that veto on the SSS pension hike will most likely stay. Unless, of course, Mr. Drilon and Mr. Belmonte agree to mutiny and challenge the veto of Mr. Aquino. SSS pensioners who entertained hopes that Mr. Aquino would have a change of heart and tweak his governing policies just for this one time small support to SSS members expected to much from a cold, heartless technocrat. A week back, I told a pensioner who excitedly told me that his pension will go up soon this: Expect nothing. You don’t know this president. He will just break your heart. True enough, Mr. Aquino broke the collective hearts of millions of pensioners. (Mr. Aquino did not break my heart. I am an SSS member who has yet to apply for my small pension. I will do it after Mr. Aquino is gone. A President Binay, a President Duterte or a President Poe will surely sign that small pension hike.) There is no reason not to grant that small pension hike. GSIS and SSS pensions are inadequate. The Philippines is one of the dwindling countries in the world with weak safety nets. Even in the health front, the PhilHealth benefits are still inadequate. Critics say that Obamacare is weak compared to the Canadian or European versions. But when we evaluate the provisions of Obamacare from the Philippine context, they are heaven. This is the real score. Mr. Aquino will go down in history as the president least concerned with the woes of the weak and the vulnerable. This is not just a knee-jerk claim but one with empirical basis. Do you remember the vehemence that undergirded his opposition to the congressional measure on fair taxation, the one that gives a small tax break to ordinary wage earners which peak rate is 32 percent? Mr. Aquino did not merely say no to the proposed tax break. He accused the proponents of grandstanding, of playing to the gallery. He and his favorite, Mr. Roxas, even pitted the poor against the wage earners. What programs for the poor will be cut once we give in to the tax break, the Aquino-Roxas Bros chorused. Can you think of a presidential statement more cruel than that? READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ana Marie Pamintuan - Retirement


JANUARY 18 -By Ana Marie Pamintuan When President Aquino computes the number of people disappointed by his veto of a higher Social Security Service (SSS) pension, he should count not just the 2.15 million who are directly affected but also their families. Demographers place the average Filipino family size at five, so that’s about 10.75 million people: the pensioner, a spouse and their children, all of them surely of voting age since the pensioner is a retiree. The extended family is still the norm in our country. Many children live with their parents throughout their life, either as dependents or as providers for the elderly. Last year a TV interview featured a beggar stooped by age – possibly in her 80s or 90s – who is a regular fixture along a busy road near Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa. The woman sells rags to motorists, but many simply give her cash (bills of P50 to P100 are common) without taking a rag, impressed by her stamina in her old age. She told the TV interviewer that she earned from P3,000 to P5,000 a day, mostly from handouts, which helped feed a large brood of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a nearby slum area. Obviously the beggar does not receive any pension. For those who do not belong to the haciendero class, pensions help put food on the family table, buy medicine and generally make aging more bearable. The direct pensioners are getting sympathy from those among the 31 million SSS members who are thinking of their pensions upon retirement. These members are listening to critics who say the SSS made bad investments in stocks and other instruments, which left the system with no other option but to raise monthly premiums if pensioners are to get an across-the-board increase of P2,000 a month. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

PNoy rejected SSS pension increase


Cheers. President Benigno Aquino III leads the traditional New Year toast during the 29th Vin d’ Honneur in Malacañang on Thursday. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, JANUARY 18, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted January 15, 2016 by Sandy Araneta, Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta - PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III vetoed a bill Thursday that would have raised Social Security System pensions by P2,000 a month across the board, and increased the minimum monthly pension from P1,200 to P3,200, arguing that the move would deplete the agency’s funds in 13 years.

The veto was criticized by lawmakers who slammed the President’s lack of compassion for pensioners and their dependents.

“The President has informed Congress… that he has vetoed the enrolled House Bill No. 5842, which provides for a P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly pension of Social Security System [SSS] pensioners and adjustment of the minimum monthly pension from P1,200 to P3,200, for members who have contributed the equivalent of 10 credited years of service [CYS], and from P2,400 to P4,000, for those with at least 20 CYS,” a statement released by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“In his message, President Aquino said the stability of the entire SSS benefit system, whose present membership comprises about 31-million individuals, will be seriously compromised in favor of two million pensioners and their dependents,” the statement said.

In a press briefing, Coloma said the SSS would run out of funds in 13 years if the bill was passed.

“We have 2.1-million SSS members who are receiving pension and if each one would receive the proposed P2,000 a month increase, times 13 months, the amount we are looking at is P56 billion a year,” Coloma said. “And the immediate effect on this is that funds will be depleted for the 31-million members in 2029 or 13 years from now.” Coloma said the responsibility of the government is to ensure the increase could be justified.

The stability of the SSS also had to be ensured so that the majority of members—particularly the retirees—would benefit.


COLOMA

“The government would be irresponsible if it allowed the depletion of the funds,” Coloma said.

The SSS, he added, is studying other measures to increase benefits to its members, without hurting its stability.

Asked if the move would hurt the President politically, Coloma said the long-term effects of his decisions were more important. He said the Palace would leave it to Congress, if it wanted to override the veto with a two-thirds vote.

Coloma also denied allegations by the Kilusang Mayo Uno that the problem was that the government failed to collect SSS contributions from several employers.

“The truth is the collection efficiency improved. From 2010 up to 2014, net revenue increased. During the five-year period [2010-2014], the average was P33 billion compared to the average of only P8 billion from 2000 to 2009. So their allegations have no basis at all,” Coloma said.

The proof is there is a 50-percent growth in assets in the last five years, he added.

READ MORE...

Coloma also defended the hefty bonuses that top SSS executives voted for themselves, saying these were just a fraction of the total operating expenses of the SSS.

But opposition lawmakers slammed the President for vetoing the bill.


ROMUALDEZ

The leader of the minority bloc in the House, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, denounced the move as being anti-poor and anti-people, and showed the lack of compassion and concern for the plight of pensioners and their dependents.

“The beneficiaries represent the real working class during their time who may not be benefitting from government’s dole out program. This is a pro-poor policy that gives social justice,” Romualdez said of the vetoed bill.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however, said the President’s action was understandable.


BELMONTE

“He had no choice as the SSS could not afford it from an actuarial point of view. The House passed a sister bill giving the SSS board powers similar to that of the GSIS board to increase premiums, but it was not yet approved by the Senate. [Aquino] chose to be a fiscally responsible leader, and not just one driven by current politics,” Belmonte said in a text message.

Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, principal authors of the measure, said the President’s decision summarized what the government’s policy of Daang Matuwid or the straight path is all about.


Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said veto would hurt administration candidates in the May elections.

“This is patently anti-pensioner, anti-poor and anti-worker,” Colmenares said. “The P2,000 hike is very reasonable and is badly needed by pensioners and their dependents,” he said.

Zarate said the President was “callous and heartless for the ordinary people but very generous and accommodating to the whims and caprices of his cronies as well as his business and foreign patrons.”

Both Zarate and Colmenares vowed to urge their colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate to work together to override the Aquino veto.

Albano warned the decision of the President might have repercussions on the popularity of his candidates in May elections but added that he might have had his own reasons for vetoing the bill.

“There must be something that he knows that we don’t,” Albano said.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. chided Aquino for being insensitive to the plight of 1.9-million SSS pensioners.

“It seems that the President has chosen to look the other way, instead of being sensitive and looking at the realistic conditions of the pensioners who dedicated their active and healthy years to labor,” Marcos said.

“This is a sad day for all SSS pensioners and I am sure they are disappointed with the President’s veto of the measure granting a P2, 000 across-the-board increase to their monthly pension,” said Marcos.

He noted that governance is about caring for the people especially those who are incapable or less capable of taking care of themselves.

“I hope the President is not missing this point,” he said.

He said the pensioners, now most of them old and sickly, depend on their monthly SSS pension for their medical requirements and daily basic needs. An increase in the pension would definitely have been a relief.

“I am one of the authors of the Senate version of the measure and now that the President has decided against it, I hope the government has other plans to uplift the conditions of the pensioners,” said Marcos, who is running for vice president in the May elections.


VILLAR, POE

Senators Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe said the vote was “unfortunate and sad.”

Villar said the elderly and the retired pensioners had been eagerly awaiting the enactment of the bill.

“It remains my position that the additional P2,000 can be given without putting the stability of the SSS fund in jeopardy. Nonetheless, we will try to look for alternative ways to help the pensioners. If unable, we will prioritize the passage of the same bill next Congress,” Villar said.

Poe, a candidate for president, said the SSS should give a concrete alternative if it believes it cannot afford the additional P2,000 a month.

Senators Ralph Recto and Juan Edgardo Angara said they would seek a compromise to the P2,000 increase.

“If the President finds the P2,000 per pensioner too high, then my unsolicited advice to him is to recommend an amount which he thinks is suitable, and supportable by SSS finances; then convey this to the SSS Board--whose members are his appointees--for possible implementation,” said Recto.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Thursday said he respects the decision of the President to exercise his veto power.

“It is within his prerogative as President to do so and this is part of the system of checks and balances that is a critical component of our democracy,” said Drilon.

Drilon said se should fully respect the judgement of the President if after a thorough review of the bill, he believed the enactment of the measure would, in the long run, harm the agency’s fund life and ability to provide meaningful social security protection to its members and beneficiaries.

“We may have a different opinion with the President on this particular matter, but I am confident that the executive branch is looking into other alternatives that will help the pensioners, without compromising the viability of the SSS as an institution,” Drilon said.


MANILA STANDARD

Aquino, SSS brass hit on pension hike veto posted January 16, 2016 at 12:01 am by John Paolo Bencito, Macon Ramos- Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III and top officials of the Social Security System came under withering fire Friday after the President vetoed a bill that would have raised pensions across-the-board for retirees by P2,000.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano called on legislators to end the executive branch’s legacy of vetoing important laws by overriding Aquino’s veto.

“It is time for Congress to stand up for our millions of pensioners and give them the pension that they need,” Cayetano said.

“We must stand up against the executive’s awesome powers and ensure the passage of important laws that will help alleviate the lives of our people and show that we are the people’s voice and not just a rubber stamp of Malacañang,” he added.

Cayetano said social security is meant to help pensioners after their retirement cope with the costs of living without their regular salaries. “But what good is social security if what they get is so low that it cannot even meet their barest needs?” he said.

Heading home.

Vice President Jejomar Binay ​meets with five Filipino workers whom he ​​will be bringing home from the Dubai International Airport​.

Binay has been in the United Arab Emirates since Tuesday, holding dialogs with Filipino workers and UAE officials on investments, job opportunities and workers’ welfare.​

Cayetano, who is running for vice president, also noted that Aquino had blocked social legislation such as the Magna Carta for the poor and the lowering of income tax rates for working Filipinos.

Cayetano vowed to lead the charge in mobilizing the legislature, which need a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate, to override the veto.

“For the sake of our struggling people, I will do everything in my power to counter this veto. It is an uphill battle but a fight that must be waged nonetheless. We owe it to the people, especially the vulnerable such as the elderly, the sick and the unemployed,” Cayetano said.

In his veto message, Aquino said the stability of the entire benefit system would be “seriously compromised” if the proposed pension hike were implemented.

But Cayetano said Aquino’s fear was based on the wrong assumptions, and that the SSS should have institutionalized long overdue reforms such as increasing its rate of contribution collection and expanding its investment reserves.

The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan tore into officials of the SSS for insulting its members and pensioners by receiving “fat paychecks and bonuses” after insisting to President Aquino that the pension funds would be depleted by the proposed P2,000 increase.

READ MORE...

The group added that the government needed its inefficiency in collecting contributions for the pension system.

“The Aquino government keeps saying that the SSS does not have enough funds to finance the pension hike, yet for the longest time, the problem of collection efficiency has not been addressed,” Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general, said in a statement.

“Despite the apparently low collection efficiency rate, SSS officials have previously received fat bonuses from government. To SSS members and pensioners, this is a big insult,” he added.

The 2014 report by state auditors showed SSS officials are among the top paid government employees in the country.

SSS president and chief executive Emilio de Quiros earned P6.84 million from the SSS. This included a P2.25 million bonus. In 2013, De Quiros received a total of P7.1 million, which included a P1.9 million bonus and P3.4 million in allowances. Other officials got millions in bonuses also for that same year.

The SSS also paid millions to two executive vice presidents, seven senior vice presidents, 16 vice presidents and eight members of the board of directors.

“If SSS is in such a bad shape, why does the Aquino administration continue to reward its officials with huge salaries, allowances and bonuses? Why reward inefficiency then cite the same inefficiency to deny pensioners a raise?” Reyes asked. With Gabrielle Marie , Consuelo H. Binaday


MANILA BULLETIN

PNoy defends decision to veto SSS pension increase by Genalyn Kabiling January 15, 2016 Share2 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share17


President Benigno S. Aquino III ( MB File Photo by Richard V. Viñas)

He may be criticized for being “heartless” in blocking a proposed Social Security System (SSS) pension increase but President Aquino refused to be called “careless” if he lets the pension agency fall into financial ruin.

The President has defended his decision to veto a bill seeking a P2,000 across-the-board increase for SSS pensioners, saying it was not made out of whim but by careful study.

Aquino, speaking to reporters during visit to Bulacan province, warned of imminent bankruptcy of SSS if the pension hike is approved. He said proposed increase may benefit the 2 million SSS pensioners but will “negatively” impact the 31 million individual members in the long run.

“So ‘heartless’ ako ngayon. Kung 2027 nabangkarote ‘yan, ‘yung 30 million or more—by that time siyempre more than 30 million—ang magsasabi naman careless ako and heartless at the same time [I may be called heartless now but once it goes bankrupt in 2027, more than 30 million members will call me careless and heartless at the same time],” Aquino said.

“Hindi kapritso ‘to. Pinag-aralan at ibabangkarote mo ‘yung SSS ‘pag pinasukan ‘to by 2027. At siguro maski sinong mamamahala ng gobyerno, importante na may commitment and estado, in this case the SSS, na agency ng gobyerno na ibigay sa iyo ‘yung benepisyong pinangako sa iyo [This was not made out of whim. It was carefully studied. SSS will go bankrupt by 2027. For any government leader, it is important that the State, in this case, the SSS, a government agency, to provide the benefits promised to you],” he added.

Aquino admitted that he could have tried to earn brownie points and pass the bill but as father of the nation, he must consider the long-term stability of the SSS.

“Pwede akong magpapogi, tulungan ‘yung endorsement ko sa lahat, at total naman 2027 baka nakalimutan na ako doon e hindi na ako masisi. Sisisihin na lang ang kung sino man ang namamahala sa atin doon [I could earn brownie points, boost my endorsement of candidates and besides people would have forgotten me by 2027 and will not blame me. They will just blame the current leader by then],” Aquino said.

“Pero tama ba ‘yon na dadalhin ko ang taumbayan sa direksyon na magiging kapahamakan nila? [But is it right to bring our people to a direction that will put them at risk?],” he added.

The President has drawn public anger over his decision to block the proposed pension increase in the SSS. Aquino earlier used his veto power against the SSS pension hike proposal due to concerns that it would weaken the financial viability of the SSS.

READ MORE...

Aquino said Congress could overturn the veto on the proposed pension hike by a two-thirds vote but reminded them about the danger of weakening the fiscal health of SSS.

He said SSS would need P56 billion a year to sustain the proposed 2,000 pension increase per retiree. But with an annual income of P30 billion to P40 billion, Aquino cautioned that the payment for pensioners result to a deficit of P16 billion – P26 billion annually. The funds of the SSS would decrease and eventually run out in a few years.

Nonetheless, the President has not closed his doors on other possible benefits for the SSS members. He admitted that the government is studying other options, including a P500- pension increase, to advance the welfare of SSS members without hurting the financial viability of the SSS.

On the impact of his decision on the chances of the administration candidates in the May polls, the President said he was certain his critics would try use this as an election issue. But he was confident that the public would read the actual data on SSS finances and eventually understand the logic behind his decision.


PHILSTAR

‘Win-win’ measures eyed for SSS By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 17, 2016 - 12:00am 0 17 googleplus0 0


Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said that while disappointment over the veto could not be avoided, there were others who understood President Aquino’s reasons for vetoing House Bill No. 5842, which allows a monthly across-the-board increase of P2,000 in retirees’ pension. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - After drawing flak for the presidential veto of a measure granting higher pension to retirees, Malacañang is appealing to the public for better understanding as it seeks a “win-win” position for both the Social Security System (SSS) and its members.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said that while disappointment over the veto could not be avoided, there were others who understood President Aquino’s reasons for vetoing House Bill No. 5842, which allows a monthly across-the-board increase of P2,000 in retirees’ pension.

“We should understand the President’s reasoning for this. The (pension) fund has the obligation to pay all of us SSS members... and our other benefits,” Quezon said.

“There’s a way to do it where it will be win-win for everyone while being responsible in ensuring the stability and actuarial life of SSS,” he pointed out.

The government has said the pension increase requires higher premiums from members. A senator said yesterday the increase in each member’s contributions could be about P100 a month.

Critics, on the other hand, claim the pension increase is not possible because the SSS is on the brink of bankruptcy. The critics say there is no need for an increase in members’ contributions if the SSS had invested its funds wisely.

SSS officials have also been criticized for their paychecks and fat bonuses.

“I think everyone’s lesson from this is, number one, the evaluation of numbers must be quite more realistic,” Quezon told radio station dzRB yesterday.

He said all sectors must work together even more to address all issues so that misunderstanding could be avoided.

“Based on the study of SSS, to match the P56 billion to be released for the proposed P2,000, the sum total of what you have to pay must increase by 40 percent to 44 percent,” he said. “And then we would have to start considering that there might be need to provide additional subsidy or funds from the national government for this and then that would have an effect on other programs.”

“It’s quite complicated to discuss but it’s possible,” Quezon said.

In November, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House of Representatives passed HB No. 6112 as twin or sister bill of HB 5842 to make sure that the SSS would not go bankrupt with the P2,000 increase in the pension of senior citizens.

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Belmonte explained they needed to approve another bill side by side with the bill increasing the pension of senior citizens because the size of the contribution to the SSS was way out of proportion to the pension proposal approved by the House and the Senate.

However, the Senate did not pass HB 6112 but only the proposal that would raise the pension. Aquino said he did not have a choice but to veto the bill because the SSS could not afford it.

Belmonte said a concomitant bill would enable the SSS to carry on and improve its actuarial life although it would involve raising the members’ contribution. Belmonte added HB 6112 would rationalize the powers, duties and accountabilities of the Social Security Commission and amend the Social Security Act of 1997.

Belmonte said the bill would empower the SSS board of trustees “to take stock of their actuarial situation and approve certain things.”

“In the case of GSIS, approval of the board is enough. In the case of SSS, the approval of the president is needed to increase the contribution,” Belmonte maintained.

“We’re not advocating about removing the approval of the President, we just want to empower the board,” he added.

How are SSS, GSIS being run?

Quezon said it was interesting to discuss how both the SSS and GSIS were being run.

“This must be studied by all those affected. For example, if you’re paying SSS, are you willing to increase the percentage of deduction from your salary and for the employers, are they willing to match that? Because the system is partnership, right?”

He said he hoped lawmakers would begin studying the matter, adding that it might now be a task left for the next Congress to take up and finish.

Quezon said it would be okay to increase the pension of the retirees if there was a clear way suggested to offset the payout that would amount to P56 billion. Such a payout figure would result in a deficit for SSS.

“There is no such bill accompanying it. So what happens is – it’s only cash out and because of that the actuarial life of SSS will be shortened and that would be very unfair to those in line who are also paying,” Quezon said.

“And I think the very encouraging thing – you know, of course, bad news sells – but many of the people also understand,” he said.

“We would all want to get more. But, at the same time, the people understand that the management of fund must also be responsible and careful to make its life longer because there are a lot more who are in line,” Quezon said.

Aquino defended his decision on Friday, saying all factors must be considered before the pension for retirees could be increased. The President said he has tasked agencies to study if a P500-increase would be feasible.

The President said that for every one peso contribution, SSS would have to pay back P6 to P15 and thus the need for the pension fund to make long-term investments and not deplete its resources.

Quezon said SSS members would also get other benefits from their contributions while paying for the operations of the firm as well.

Bonuses justified

He also said the bonuses that SSS officials were getting were justified based on their performance.

“These are two separate issues. Number one, because of the reforms that have been put in place, the handling of government funds and the existence of GOCCs are really dependent on performance,” he said.

“Let’s remember that bonuses and allowances are performance-based. And what is the proof of the performance? Under the Aquino administration, the life of the SSS has been extended by three years. So that’s a concrete proof of both prudent management and achievement,” he explained.

He said SSS had also been providing other benefits and “it’s a basic principle of modern government – and you see this, for example, in Singapore – that if we want to have good performance, we have to be in a sense willing to reasonably pay for it.”

While funds involved were government funds amounting to billions of pesos, there should be an incentive for people to not only do their job well but to do it honestly.

“If these people, for example, had chosen just to stay in the private sector – let’s say, to manage the pension funds of a private firm because there are... pension funds of private companies – they would be earning much more than what the SSS pays out for a performance-based track record,” Quezon said.

“I believe we must ask ourselves: ‘are we willing to pay for performance and for prudent management?’ I believe that the SSS can prove that they have performed in this level,” he pointed out.

He said everyone should “commit and help the government” to ensure that everyone is paying his due so there would be basis for allowing higher pension.

“No one wants to keep the benefits low, but we have to realize that collections can still be improved, and that once they reach certain levels then there is added security to ensure payouts in the future,” he said.

Who’s heartless?

Quezon also scoffed at accusations that Aquino was being heartless when he rejected higher pension for retirees.

He said the administration has set in place numerous pro-poor programs like the mandatory Philippine Health Insurance Corp. coverage for all senior citizens.

He said as of June 2015, more than 4.8 million senior citizens had been enlisted under the healthcare program through amendments to the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed by the President in 2014.

Quezon said indigent senior citizens were also receiving “augmented social pension” amounting to P500 under the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed in February of 2010.

The age to qualify for indigent senior citizens’ pension also was adjusted, Quezon said, noting that the Department of Social Welfare of Development included those 65 years and above in 2015 “so in that year alone, 760,736 indigent senior citizens were served.”

From 2011 to 2014, the DSWD prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years and above. Moreover, SSS pension for retirees increased by five percent beginning 2014.

“And, together with the national government, there has been a P7-billion educational assistance loan program that was started in 2012. And, as of June 2015, over P3.1 billion worth of loans have been disbursed for 67,299 qualified student beneficiaries,” he revealed.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said the “most painless and intelligent” way to raise enough money to cover the P2,000 hike in retirees pension is simply to require members to contribute P100 more to the SSS.

A P100-hike in contribution every month would mean an additional P3 billion a month or P36 billion a year, he said.

He added the President did the right thing “technically, financially” when he vetoed the measure “because the Senate did not include raising the funds to cover for the estimated P46 billion a year needed.”

“The most painless and intelligent solution is to raise the contribution by P100 a month,” Osmeña said over dwIZ.

In Davao City, the Anakbayan youth group said Aquino’s offer of P500 hike in retirees pension instead of P2,000 was “an insult” to Filipinos.

“Why is it that millions of pesos are being given away as bonuses for SSS officials and yet nothing is available for senior citizens?” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo. – With Marvin Sy, Edith Regalado


MANILA TIMES OPINION

Mr. Aquino’s universe, pensioners (and the vulnerable) are moochers
January 16, 2016 10:21 pm Marlen V. Ronquillo


by MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

What people do not get about Mr. Aquino is this. He is essentially a Randian. The strong, the masters of the universe, are his heroes. The weak and the vulnerable are, in his version of the world, moochers–that are to be swatted like flies or cockroaches. We just don’t know at what stage of his life did he imbibe an overdose of John Galt. What we know is that he has applied his beliefs that the world is divided between the strong and the moochers in his governing philosophy.

So the proposed small hike in the pension of SSS members in the national budget, a meager rise of P2,000 a month per member, really had no chance of getting the signature of Mr. Aquino. Anything that represents a small break for the vulnerable is the equivalent of a gift to moochers. That’s a no-no to Mr. Aquino.

With a cowardly Congress lacking the numbers to override, that veto on the SSS pension hike will most likely stay. Unless, of course, Mr. Drilon and Mr. Belmonte agree to mutiny and challenge the veto of Mr. Aquino.

SSS pensioners who entertained hopes that Mr. Aquino would have a change of heart and tweak his governing policies just for this one time small support to SSS members expected to much from a cold, heartless technocrat. A week back, I told a pensioner who excitedly told me that his pension will go up soon this: Expect nothing. You don’t know this president. He will just break your heart. True enough, Mr. Aquino broke the collective hearts of millions of pensioners.

(Mr. Aquino did not break my heart. I am an SSS member who has yet to apply for my small pension. I will do it after Mr. Aquino is gone. A President Binay, a President Duterte or a President Poe will surely sign that small pension hike.)

There is no reason not to grant that small pension hike. GSIS and SSS pensions are inadequate. The Philippines is one of the dwindling countries in the world with weak safety nets. Even in the health front, the PhilHealth benefits are still inadequate. Critics say that Obamacare is weak compared to the Canadian or European versions. But when we evaluate the provisions of Obamacare from the Philippine context, they are heaven.

This is the real score. Mr. Aquino will go down in history as the president least concerned with the woes of the weak and the vulnerable. This is not just a knee-jerk claim but one with empirical basis.

Do you remember the vehemence that undergirded his opposition to the congressional measure on fair taxation, the one that gives a small tax break to ordinary wage earners which peak rate is 32 percent? Mr. Aquino did not merely say no to the proposed tax break. He accused the proponents of grandstanding, of playing to the gallery.

He and his favorite, Mr. Roxas, even pitted the poor against the wage earners. What programs for the poor will be cut once we give in to the tax break, the Aquino- Roxas Bros chorused. Can you think of a presidential statement more cruel than that?

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Okay, do you remember the sad event in May of 2013, when Congress presented the Magna Carta for the Poor to Mr. Aquino for his signature. Mr. Aquino said No. He called it “ unrealistic.” The draft law offered small concessions to the poor that the budget could very well fund.

Some claimed he vetoed it without looking at the small concessions offered in the draft law. Basta. Anything for the poor is anathema to the governing principles of Mr. Aquino.

Do you remember what Mr. Aquino did after the Napoles—inspired pork barrel scam broke out in the news? I do because farmers (I am one) were the first victim of that scam. Without even looking at the context of the scam — that farm coops and farm organizations were used as fronts and were technically the first victims of the pork scam – Mr. Aquino’s first directive was to cut off all seed and production subsidies to small farmers.

He used the scam to further marginalize the small farmers, who are the most neglected under his administration. Only a Randian would do that.

Do you have an accounting on how shabbily his administration carried out the rehabilitation of the Yolanda-ravaged areas ? Read the report of the UN inspectorate and you will weep.

The most-remembered optic of the Aquino administration was framed on the day the cadavers of the Fallen 44 were brought to Manila from the killing fields of Mamasapano. We all know what Mr. Aquino did. Instead of welcoming the heroes his government sent for the proverbial slaughter, Mr. Aquino opted out of the chance to welcome the heroes.

We all know where he went. Attend the inauguration of a recycled car manufacturing plant in Laguna.

Mr. Aquino is all-business and consumed by growth, investment and budgetary matters that he even fails to realize that governing is, first and foremost, about caring for those who needs the government most.


PHILSTAR COLUMN

Retirement SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 18, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

When President Aquino computes the number of people disappointed by his veto of a higher Social Security Service (SSS) pension, he should count not just the 2.15 million who are directly affected but also their families.

Demographers place the average Filipino family size at five, so that’s about 10.75 million people: the pensioner, a spouse and their children, all of them surely of voting age since the pensioner is a retiree.

The extended family is still the norm in our country. Many children live with their parents throughout their life, either as dependents or as providers for the elderly.

Last year a TV interview featured a beggar stooped by age – possibly in her 80s or 90s – who is a regular fixture along a busy road near Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa. The woman sells rags to motorists, but many simply give her cash (bills of P50 to P100 are common) without taking a rag, impressed by her stamina in her old age. She told the TV interviewer that she earned from P3,000 to P5,000 a day, mostly from handouts, which helped feed a large brood of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a nearby slum area.

Obviously the beggar does not receive any pension. For those who do not belong to the haciendero class, pensions help put food on the family table, buy medicine and generally make aging more bearable.

The direct pensioners are getting sympathy from those among the 31 million SSS members who are thinking of their pensions upon retirement.

These members are listening to critics who say the SSS made bad investments in stocks and other instruments, which left the system with no other option but to raise monthly premiums if pensioners are to get an across-the-board increase of P2,000 a month.

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So far there’s been no detailed explanation of the investments made by the SSS under daang sarado.

* * *

While the government is grappling with this problem, we should all start taking a second look at the way we view aging. Senior citizens enjoy many privileges in our country, but employment opportunities are rare. Laws in fact are designed to keep them out of jobs.

There wouldn’t be such reliance on pensions if there were more employment opportunities for seniors. With advances in medicine and greater awareness of healthy lifestyles, people are living longer with all their physical and mental faculties intact, many bringing with them the expertise that can only come with age.

Yet societies including our own are increasingly becoming youth-centric. Instead of allowing people to work for a couple more years in their chosen fields, laws have been crafted for earlier retirement.

In the police and fire services, the retirement age was gradually lowered from 65 (the age in most government offices) to 56 – the same retirement age in the military.

That rule must have been crafted by people who think dementia, not life begins at 40. Or by those who think everyone is stuck in a dead-end job and can’t wait to get out of a daily rut after 30 to 35 years of toil. The booming population must have been another consideration; the upper echelons, particularly in the uniformed services, must keep making way for new blood.

But for people who believe 50 is the new 30 and so on, 56 is just mid-career. Being required to retire at 56 can be a wrenching experience for those who have dedicated their entire adult life to their profession.

Early retirement is also becoming a problem when our extended family system is being eroded and children no longer want the responsibility of looking after the older generation.

Some careers favor age. Many Supreme Court justices, who retire at 70, are good examples of the saying that wisdom grows with age. Several of them have taken on equally challenging jobs after retirement, and they proved up to the job.

The self-employed can of course work until their very last breath. There is no retirement age for taipans and other titans of business.

Show business can be cruel to matinee idols, but it also offers lifetime opportunities. Consider the enduring star power of Susan Roces and her contemporary, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, or even Sen. Tito Sotto.

The arts also do not discriminate on age. National Artist Frankie Sionil Jose, whose novel “Ermita” I enjoyed reading over the weekend, remains a prolific writer in his 90s.

I was pleased to learn that David Bowie’s latest album “Blackstar,” released just two days before he died of cancer last week at age 69, has topped Adele’s monster album “25” in the UK charts.

The music video of one of the cuts in the album, “Lazarus,” is mesmerizing if a bit creepy; it shows Bowie at the top of his craft (fans say he proved even better) literally up to his last breath.

We should be glad that there’s no retirement age for artists.

* * *

Laws have been passed prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on gender or religion, and there are laws promoting employment opportunities for the disabled.

It’s not accurate to say that laws on retirement encourage discrimination based on age. There are people who actually like early retirement. But we need laws that provide incentives for employing those past retirement age as defined in various sectors or professions, in case people want to continue working in their senior years.

National productivity can even be enhanced with retirees contributing to the output. And people don’t have to rely too much on pensions.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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