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SSS FALLOUT: MALACAÑANG EXECS SCRAMBLED TO CONTAIN PUBLIC IRE


JANUARY 17 -COMMUNICATION SECRETARY COLOMA, UNDERSEC MANUEL QUEZON III Malacañang officials scrambled to contain growing public indignation over the decision of President Benigno Aquino 3rd to veto the proposed P2,000 pension increase for Social Security System (SSS) pensioners, dismissing claims that the administration has no compassion for senior citizens. Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. and his deputy, Manuel Quezon 3rd, came to Aquino’s defense as condemnation and criticisms rained on Malacañang. To calm ruffled feathers, Quezon said the Aquino administration has been taking care of senior citizens for the past five years. He cited, for instance, the mandatory PhilHealth coverage for senior citizens, which came into effect through amendments to the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed by Aquino in June 2014. Quezon said at least 4.8 million senior citizens were enlisted in the program under the amended senior citizens act. He added that 937,556 senior citizens were granted “augmented social pension” from 2011 to May 2015. “The age to qualify for indigent senior citizens’ pension went down. This means that from 2011 to 2014, the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years and above,” Quezon said. Senior citizens 65 years old and above were included in the program in 2015. “So in that year alone, in 2015, 760,736 indigent senior citizens were served [by the government],” the Palace official said. According to him, the administration authorized the five percent increase in the monthly pension of senior citizens starting May 31, 2014. The pension fund, Quezon said, also increased the funeral benefits from a fixed amount of P20,000 to a maximum amount of P40,000 depending on the number of contributions and average monthly salary credit as of August 2014. The SSS also put up a voluntary provident fund, called the Personal Equity and Savings Option (PESO) fund for SSS members to provide more avenues for retirement security, he added. It also opened a P7-billion educational assistance loan program in 2012. As of June 2015, Quezon said, over P3.1 billion had been loaned to 67,299 qualified student beneficiaries. To lessen the burden for pensioners, he added, the SSS implemented two penalty condonation programs in 2011 and 2012 allowing 406,421 delinquent members to once again join the SSS. Coloma also defended the President’s action by pointing out that the welfare of the 31 million SSS members was given consideration over that of pensioners.“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,” he noted. Catholic bishops on Friday criticized Aquino for rejecting the pension increase, saying the President is insensitive to the plight of the poor pensioners. But Quezon said the bishops will “be enlightened” if they learn all the benefits provided by the government to senior citizens and other SSS members. READ MORE...

ALSO: EXCLUSIVE FROM MAIL ONLINE, UK - Children CAGED to keep the streets clean for the Pope [Police round up orphans and chain them in filth during pontiff's visit to Philippines]


JANUARY 17 -Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila's central Pasay district, claimed the round-ups had been conducted to protect the Pope from being targeted by gangs of begging street children Orobia told the Manila Standard newspaper the syndicates 'know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that' +37 Orobia told the Manila Standard newspaper the syndicates 'know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that' But the Manila Standard hit back at Orobia, saying the decision to clear the streets of the children only helped officials trying to pretend all was well in the city Street children as young as five are being caged in brutal detention centres alongside adult criminals in a cynical drive to smarten up the Philippines capital ahead of a visit by Pope Francis this week. Hundreds of boys and girls have been rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police and officials and put behind bars in recent weeks to make the poverty-racked city more presentable when Pope Francis arrives tomorrow, a MailOnline investigation has found. In a blatant abuse of the country's own child protection laws, the terrified children are locked up in filthy detention centres where they sleep on concrete floors and where many of them are beaten or abused by older inmates and adult prisoners and, in some cases, starved and chained to pillars. Six million people are expected to attend an open air mass conducted by Pope Francis in Manila's Rizal Park on Sunday, which will watched by a global TV audience and officials appear determined to ensure that urchins are hidden from view. Angel, a 13 year old little girl clad only in a flimsy dress, was chained to a post in the RAC detention centre and left there crying. (photo) Other children were allegedly encouraged to throw pebbles at her as she screamed in pain and fear in the detention late last year. Youngsters living in the city's doorways and roadsides are being rounded up despite many having committed no crime. A MailOnline investigation has uncovered the horrendous conditions the children are kept in, with many of them beaten, or tied to poles. This picture of a starving 11-year-old led to protests against the centres - but nothing has changed. The youngsters, who can be kept in the centres for months, are exposed to abuse and exploitation by older children and adults. Father Shay Cullen, who works to rescue the children, says the detention centres where the young street children are kept are 'a shame on the nation' (photo)...READ MORE...WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC IMAGES!

ALSO: Binay slams Noy's veto of SSS pension hike


JANUARY 17 -BINAY: ‘WHY ALLOW CONGRESS TO DEBATE BILL ONLY TO REJECT IT?’ President Aquino has no one else to blame but himself for the uproar he created when he vetoed the proposal to hike the pension of members of the Social Security System (SSS) by P2,000 a month after not objecting to Congress in passing bill which he later vetoed, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay said yesterday. Binay added if Aquino had really no intention of granting the pension increase to SSS members as proposed by Congress, he should have not let the process take its course. “I have no idea yet on the proposed bill. But what I don’t understand is why it was allowed to undergo the normal process for a proposed measure, debated for such a long time only to be vetoed in the end,” Binay said. “You know very well how a President deals with proposed legislations. If he doesn’t agree, he could easily block it. So why did he allow it to undergo the whole process? I am just guessing but apparently, it is really a matter of fact,” Binay said. To avoid getting in the same situation should he get elected as president, Binay said that in his first 100 days as Chief Executive, he would initiate a dialog among the members of the Senate, Congress and the Supreme Court (SC). “It would be a waste of time, effort and resources for a proposed bill to be allowed to undergo the whole process, let it be approved by both chambers of Congress only to be vetoed in the end,” Binay said. The vice president nonetheless vowed to include the issue of the SSS pension increase among his priorities should he becomes president. “I have always been sincere in helping our senior citizens,” said Binay. “At a certain point, people would have to retire. At first, maybe their retirement benefit would be sufficient as they would be able to buy a bagful of goods from what they are receiving. But there would come a time when the value of their monthly pension would diminish,” Binay said. “Thus the need to adjust their pension,” Binay said. With the uproar it had been facing over Aquino’s veto of proposed SSS pension hike, the government has come with a compromise to deflect the threat of a congressional override, offering instead a P500 monthly increase for the pensioners. However, Aquino’s offer had been rejected by the youth group Anakbayan calling the predeint’s offer as an insult. Wrong SSS computation “They have been giving millions of pesos as bonuses of SSS officials and yet they are saying they have no money for the senior citizens,” asked Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo. Citing computations made by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Crisostomo said that SSS’ huge revenues and reserve funds is more than enough to finance the SSS pension increase. “Aquino is not only a heartless haciendero but also the biggest liar,” said Crisostomo who disputed Malacañang’s claim that the P2,000 SSS pension hike will lead to a P16 to 26 billion annual deficit for the agency. Data from EILER shows that the yearly members’ contributions and income from investments amount to P160 billion, which is more than the P56 billion projected annual payout for SSS pensioners. On top of this are the SSS investment reserve funds which are pegged at P428 billion as of April 2015. Crisostomo also scored the Aquino administration for trying to divide the public by trying to set the 2.15 million senior citizen pensioners against the rest of active SSS members which Malacañang said will not benefit from the pension hike. He explained SSS members can avail of benefits for sickness, maternity, disability, death, and funeral. They also become pensioners, thus directly gaining from the hike, when they do retire. The youth leader also suspected that “yellow politics” may be behind Aquino’s decision. “The main author of the bill is Neri Colmenares, a critic of Aquino’s corrupt politics. He (Aquino) is politicizing pension hike,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Dr. Benjamin Diokno - Political backlash
[{THE BILL} It goes against the “greatest happiness principle” popularized by Jeremy Bentham, founder of modern utilitarianism, which states that: “as a fundamental axiom, it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Why sacrifice the long-term future of the 30-million member SSS for the benefit of some 2.15 million pensioners? The bill just doesn’t make sense, economically.]


JANUARY 18 -BACOLOD. Two senior citizens in Bacolod City join the Bayan-Negros protest against President FROM SUNSTAR  President Aquino’s veto of House Bill 5842 mandating P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly pension of Social Security System (SSS) pensioners is the right move. Signing the proposal into law would be fiscally irresponsible. It would have risked the long-term financial viability of the SSS with more than 30 million members for the benefit of some 2.15 million pensioners. It goes against the “greatest happiness principle” popularized by Jeremy Bentham, founder of modern utilitarianism, which states that: “as a fundamental axiom, it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Why sacrifice the long-term future of the 30-million member SSS for the benefit of some 2.15 million pensioners? The bill just doesn’t make sense, economically. Even during the darkest days of martial law, the Social Security System was spared from financial ruin. The late President Marcos did not meddle into the financial affairs of the SSS, a publicly sponsored social security system for private sector workers. Why do it now? By passing the bill, Congress risk cutting short the life of SSS by some 13 years. And it is not as if the members of Congress don’t know this implication for a fact. I’m sure the leadership of the Social Security System told them in clear terms that the impact of the bill mandating P2,000 across-the-board increase in SSS monthly pension would be that the SSS would go bankrupt by 2029 rather than 2042. WHO’S TO BLAME? There is enough blame to go around for this political backlash. Let’s face the reality: the veto, though right, will have a negative impact on the President’s approval rating and his candidates’ winnability. The President could have been spared of a lot of political backlash, headaches and heartaches, had his allies in Congress stalled, frozen, or dribbled the bill. If his allies in both Houses of Congress had political sense, they could have avoided the SSS pension bill from reaching the presidential desk. Even one House will do, because it takes both Houses to approve a bill. His political allies in Congress — especially the Senate President and the Speaker of the House — should be partly blamed for this mess. Some argue, perhaps to deflect the blame from the President that the legislators pass the bill raising the SSS pension for their own self-interest. How can one go against such a popular move? The legislators played a game of chicken. Facing reelection or election to higher office, they cannot afford to vote against a popular proposal. (Only Sen. Johnny Enrile had the sense of voting against it). They bet that the President, with his back against the wall, would be forced to sign the bill into law. They bet wrong, but they are off the hook. They can always put the blame on the President. In the meantime, the President and his candidates will suffer the consequences of the unpopular veto. READ MORE...

ALSO: House leader - No override of veto


JANUARY 18 -The day after. Pensioners line up at the Social Security Systems’ main office in Quezon City on Friday, the day after President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the bill proposing higher pensions for the pension fund’s pensioners. Jansen Romero
HOUSE leaders on Sunday waved aside calls to override the presidential veto of the P2,000 monthly hike in Social Security System pensions, saying this was “next to impossible” despite simmering public anger over President Benigno Aquino III’s rejection of the bill. “The 100 percent attendance to obtain the 2/3 votes [needed to override the veto] is just next to impossible,” said House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez II in an interview over radio dzBB. He added that President Aquino also told House leaders he would rather earn the ire of two million SSS pensioners than anger 30 million SSS members if the agency’s funds are depleted as a result of the pension hike. The administration’s refusal to reconsider the pension hike came as Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares revealed that the SSS had P100 billion in collectibles as a result of its inefficiency. The amount, he said, would cover the payment for pensioners for at least the first two years. Senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez slammed the government for its lack of compassion or malasakit for pensioners. Romualdez urged his colleagues to consider overriding the President’s veto because an increase was long overdue, particularly for those getting only P1,200 a month. In rejecting the pension hike, the Palace said the plan would compel the SSS to spend an extra P56 billion a year for some 2.1-million pensioners. Gonzales said Congress has never overridden a presidential veto because of the constitutional requirement of a 2/3 vote in each chamber of Congress. “It is super difficult. It will never happen,” Gonzales said. “While the House unanimously approved the pension hike and no one objected to its passage, Congress did not also want to be the cause of having the SSS go bankrupt because we failed to pass the accompanying House Bill 6112,” he said. That bill, which would have authorized the SSS to raise membership premiums, did not pass in the Senate. “Perhaps the President did not want to go down in history as the President who caused the bankruptcy of the SSS,” Gonzales said. READ MORE...

ALSO:  By Fr. Shay Cullen - What Philippine officials found in child detention centers


JANUARY 16 -by FR. SHAY CULLEN
“HOUSES of Horror” is how one visitor described the centers where children are held illegally behind bars or in cages. Senior Philippine officials responsible for the protection of Filipino children at risk made spot inspections of four child detention centers around Metro Manila this week on the orders of Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman following reports in the foreign media. The officials representing various government agencies were shocked and greatly disturbed when they saw the terrible conditions of the jailed children behind bars in these detention centers run by local government units. The national government has limited jurisdiction over them. In one center, children are held in these conditions from three months to over one year and nine months. The cells for boys are overcrowded. In another detention center, there is only one social worker to handle the 43 cases. In three centers, the children were in prison cells behind bars. In one jail, a child looked as young as 6 years old.
All the children in another center were barefooted walking on wet floors. One little girl had swollen feet. The children interviewed told the team that they just do cleaning and food preparation all day. Some of the children were mentally challenged and in need of special care. A mentally challenged old lady was in with the children in one center. The professional fact-finders, accompanied by experienced NGO social workers, did an excellent task. They met officials, social workers and house parents. They observed, noted and took photo-documentation of the conditions. The conditions experienced and observed will confirm previous reports by human rights defenders from non-government organizations. It was the first such visit on record by government officials of high standing. Four detention centers out of as many as twenty were inspected. The two teams, making a professional inspection over a period of two days, saw the abusive conditions of dirty, smelly toilets, little children boys and girls mixed with older youth, wearing dirty clothes, unwashed and caged behind steel bars and others like criminals in rooms like mesh cages. They saw children lying and sleeping on concrete floors. Most centers were lacking beds, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Food was eaten sitting on the floor. The floors and walls were dirty and one with graffiti. There were no programs for emotional healing, therapy, education, physical exercise, games, books or any mental stimulation. The older boys in one center could touch younger girls. The fact-finding teams saw that the children suffered 24 hours of confinement with no sunlight exposure. There was bad ventilation and dirty toilets and the smell of urine pervades the place. The investigators asked for the case studies and social workers’ reports, files or records of the children- there were hardly any. Many children were unidentified and without birth certificates and allegedly no effort was taken to find parents or relatives. One child was found to be only eight years old. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

SSS FALLOUT: Palace execs deflect attacks


COMMUNICATION SECRETARY COLOMA

MANILA, JANUARY 18, 2016 (MANILA TIMES) January 16, 2016 by CATHERINE S. VALENTE, REPORTER - Malacañang officials scrambled to contain growing public indignation over the decision of President Benigno Aquino 3rd to veto the proposed P2,000 pension increase for Social Security System (SSS) pensioners, dismissing claims that the administration has no compassion for senior citizens.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. and his deputy, Manuel Quezon 3rd, came to Aquino’s defense as condemnation and criticisms rained on Malacañang.

To calm ruffled feathers, Quezon said the Aquino administration has been taking care of
senior citizens for the past five years.

He cited, for instance, the mandatory PhilHealth coverage for senior citizens, which came into effect through amendments to the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed by Aquino in June 2014.


UNDERSEC MANUEL QUEZON III

Quezon said at least 4.8 million senior citizens were enlisted in the program under the amended senior citizens act.
He added that 937,556 senior citizens were granted “augmented social pension” from 2011 to May 2015.

“The age to qualify for indigent senior citizens’ pension went down. This means that from 2011 to 2014, the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years and above,” Quezon said.

Senior citizens 65 years old and above were included in the program in 2015.

“So in that year alone, in 2015, 760,736 indigent senior citizens were served [by the government],” the Palace official said.

According to him, the administration authorized the five percent increase in the monthly pension of senior citizens starting May 31, 2014.

The pension fund, Quezon said, also increased the funeral benefits from a fixed amount of P20,000 to a maximum amount of P40,000 depending on the number of contributions and average monthly salary credit as of August 2014.

The SSS also put up a voluntary provident fund, called the Personal Equity and Savings Option (PESO) fund for SSS members to provide more avenues for retirement security, he added.

It also opened a P7-billion educational assistance loan program in 2012. As of June 2015, Quezon said, over P3.1 billion had been loaned to 67,299 qualified student beneficiaries.

To lessen the burden for pensioners, he added, the SSS implemented two penalty condonation programs in 2011 and 2012 allowing 406,421 delinquent members to once again join the SSS.

Coloma also defended the President’s action by pointing out that the welfare of the 31 million SSS members was given consideration over that of pensioners.

“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,” he noted.

Catholic bishops on Friday criticized Aquino for rejecting the pension increase, saying the President is insensitive to the plight of the poor pensioners.

But Quezon said the bishops will “be enlightened” if they learn all the benefits provided by the government to senior citizens and other SSS members.

READ MORE...

“And I think the bishops will then be reassured that if only we take more time to understand the issues, then we will not only understand the issues but they are reassured na hindi naman pinapabayaan ang ating mga senior citizens [our senior citizens are not being ignored],” he added.

Also on Saturday, Rep. Roy Señeres of OFW party-list said the President spat on pensioners when he vetoed the pension hike bill.

“His purported reason of a multi-billion loss for SSS amid its inflow of revenues is a spit on the face of long-time Filipino workers, especially given the huge payments and bonuses reaped through the years by SSS executives,” Señeres added.

He was referring to the time when high-ranking SSS officials gave themselves millions in incentive bonuses.

The Commission on Audit records show that in 2014, the SSS failed to collect P8.168 billion from 97,366 employers.
This was lower than the P94 billion uncollected premiums from 164,111 delinquent employers in 2010.

Of that at least P102 billion uncollected SSS remittances, the SSS announced in September 2015 that it was able to collect P1.6 billion of SSS dues from delinquent companies in the past five years.

“Retirement benefits are tools supposed to protect our workers from income risks associated with old age… a small token they can provide themselves through their premium payments for their decades of hard work. These tools for social protection are anti-poverty measures,” Señeres, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Commission, said.

“The President’s veto of the proposed P2,000 pension hike per retiree-beneficiary of the SSS shows the type of leadership a so-called daang matuwid [straight path] espouses–a pro-capitalist administration that puts social protection on the sidelines,” he added.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI


EXCLUSIVE FROM MAIL ONLINE, UK

EXCLUSIVE - Children CAGED to keep the streets clean for the Pope
[Police round up orphans and chain them in filth during pontiff's visit to Philippines]
By SIMON PARRY IN MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES, FOR MAILONLINE PUBLISHED: 10:34 GMT, 14 January 2015 | UPDATED: 08:23 GMT, 17 January 2015

WARNING: SOME IMAGES ARE VERY GRAPHIC


Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila's central Pasay district, claimed the round-ups had been conducted to protect the Pope from being targeted by gangs of begging street children Orobia told the Manila Standard newspaper the syndicates 'know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that'. But the Manila Standard hit back at Orobia, saying the decision to clear the streets of the children only helped officials trying to pretend all was well in the city.

Street children as young as five are being caged in brutal detention centres alongside adult criminals in a cynical drive to smarten up the Philippines capital ahead of a visit by Pope Francis this week.

Hundreds of boys and girls have been rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police and officials and put behind bars in recent weeks to make the poverty-racked city more presentable when Pope Francis arrives tomorrow, a MailOnline investigation has found.

In a blatant abuse of the country's own child protection laws, the terrified children are locked up in filthy detention centres where they sleep on concrete floors and where many of them are beaten or abused by older inmates and adult prisoners and, in some cases, starved and chained to pillars.



Six million people are expected to attend an open air mass conducted by Pope Francis in Manila's Rizal Park on Sunday, which will watched by a global TV audience and officials appear determined to ensure that urchins are hidden from view.

Angel, a 13 year old little girl, clad only in a flimsy dress, was chained toa post in the RAC detention centre late last year and left there crying while the other children were allegedly encouraged to throw pebbles at her as she screamed in pain and fear

Youngsters living in the city's doorways and roadsides are being rounded up despite many having committed no crime


A MailOnline investigation has uncovered the horrendous conditions the children are kept in, with many of them beaten, or tied to poles. This picture of a starving 11-year-old led to protests against the centres - but nothing has changed


The youngsters, who can be kept in the centres for months, are exposed to abuse and exploitation by older children and adults



Father Shay Cullen, who works to rescue the children, says the detention centres where the young street children are kept are 'a shame on the nation'

READ MORE...


MailOnline found dozens of street children locked up in appalling conditions alongside adult criminals in Manila, where a senior official admitted there had been an intensive round-up by police and government workers to make sure they are not seen by Pope Francis.


by FR. SHAY CULLEN, COLUMNIST (Manila Times photo)

We gained rare access to a detention centre by accompanying Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Irish missionary Father Shay Cullen, 71, as he freed a boy aged around seven and took him to his Preda Foundation shelter for children 100 miles away in Subic Bay.


Mak-Mak is one of hundreds of children being kept in these dreadful conditions - but he is lucky, as he has been rescued by charity workers. He is smiling as a lucky one in a new home.

Mak-Mak, whose legs and body were riddled with scabies, was picked up three weeks ago and spent Christmas and the New Year in a concrete pen at the centre hidden away in the slums of Manila's Paranaque district which –with grotesque irony – is named House of Hope.

There, guiltless children are kept behind bars, made to go to the toilet in buckets and fed leftovers which they eat from the floor. There is no schooling or entertainment for the youngsters who are held sometimes for months before being freed.


The government has defended the policy in interviews with the local press in Manila

Adult convicts are kept in a pen next to separate compounds holding boys and girls and freely pass between the pens at certain times of the day, inmates and regular visitors to the centre told us, while officials either ignore or fail to spot abuse and attacks.

In poignant scenes, Mak-Mak – an abandoned child with no ID – at first seen frightened but then beamed with delight as charity workers told him he was being taken from his caged pen to children's home in the countryside. 'Are there toys there?' was his first question.


Mak-Mak in Manila detention centre before his release

This boy, who is thought to be around seven, was initially frightened when charity workers arrived at the centre, ironically called 'House of Hope'

But he beamed with joy after they said they were taking him away to a new home - asking: 'Will there be toys?'

Father Shay said the conditions Mak-Mak was being kept in were 'completely beneath human dignity'

Mak-Mak is one of hundreds of children being kept in these dreadful conditions - but he is lucky, as he has been rescued by charity workers

But, thanks to charity workers, he is now living in a children's home on the coast, 80 miles from the Philippine's capital Manila


Mak-Mak smiles and laughs as he plays at his new home

An adult prisoner held with other convicts in a cell directly opposite the pen holding Mak-Mak and the other children, 42-year-old Paulo, said: 'Lots of children have been brought here lately. We're told they're being picked up from under the road bridges where the Pope will travel.'


The children can be kept with adult offenders, which leaves them vulnerable during their time in the centres

As a team of charity workers took Mak-Mak to his new home in Subic Bay, an exasperated Father Shay said: 'This boy is only about seven years old and he is behind bars. This is completely beneath human dignity and the rights of all the children here are being violated.

'They have no basic rights. There is no education. There is no entertainment. There is no proper human development. There is nowhere to eat and they sleep on a concrete floor. There is no proper judicial process.

'These kids are totally without protection. They have no legal representation. They are just put in jail and left to fend for themselves.'

Pope Francis famously washed the feet of inmates in a youth detention centre in Rome in 2013 but Father Shay, who has run a mission to help children in the Philippines for 40 years, said: 'Sadly, there is no way the Pope will be visiting these detention centres in Manila.

'They are a shame on the nation. Officials here would be horrified at the prospect of the Pope seeing children treated in this way.'


THIS BOY, FRANCISCO IS NOW RECOVERING AT A CHILDREN'S HOME RUN BY CHARITY

The caging of street children ahead of the Pope's visit comes despite anger in the Philippines late last year over another notorious detention centre – the Manila Reception and Action Centre (RAC) – where a skeletal 11-year-old was pictured lying on the ground, apparently near death.

The boy, who shares the Pope's name Francisco, is now recovering at a children's home run by a charity - but protests over his case failed to halt the current round-up or improve conditions at the 17 detention centres across the city, where an estimated 20,000 children a year are detained.

Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila's central Pasay district, confirmed her officials had for weeks been detaining street children in the areas the Pope will visit and had taken in children as young as five.

Bizarrely, she claimed the operations were aimed at stopping begging syndicates targeting the Pope rather than tidying up the city.

'They (the syndicates) know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that,' she told the Manila Standard newspaper.

In an editorial, the newspaper slammed the official's remarks, saying: 'We should all be scandalized by the government's artificial campaign to keep the streets free of poor children only for the duration of the papal visit.


DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVPT (DSWD) CHIEF SOLIMAN

The government has defended the policy in interviews with the local press in Manila.

Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila's central Pasay district, claimed the round-ups had been conducted to protect the Pope from being targeted by gangs of begging street children.
 
Orobia told the Manila Standard newspaper the syndicates 'know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that'.

But the Manila Standard hit back at Orobia, saying the decision to clear the streets of the children only helped officials trying to pretend all was well in the city.

The noticeable rise in 'rescues' has happened before other big international visits, one charity head revealed - including before President Obama's visit last year.


THE OBAMA VISIT PHOTO ON April 28, 2014 4:12pm FROM GMA NEWS TV

The noticeable rise in 'rescues' has happened before other big international visits, one charity head revealed - including before President Obama's visit last year

In an editorial, the newspaper slammed the official's remarks, saying: 'We should all be scandalized by the government's artificial campaign to keep the streets free of poor children only for the duration of the papal visit.


The visit to Manila comes exactly 20 years after St. John Paul II's visit to the country, and there is great excitement to meet the first non-European Pope - seen here blessing a sick child - for more than 1,300 years.


The visit to Manila comes exactly 20 years after St. John Paul II's visit to the country, and there is great excitement to meet the first non-European Pope - seen here blessing a sick child - for more than 1,300 years.


Pope Francis - who arrived in Manila the following day- waves to the faithful upon his arrival to attend a canonisation mass for Joseph Vaz at Galle Face Green today, January 14, in Colombo, Sri Lanka

This is Pope Francis' second tour of Asia in six months, but the first time he has visited either Sri Lanka - the first stop on the trip, pictured - or the Philippines

Thousands welcomed the Pope to Columbo, Sri Lanka's capital, and similar scenes are expected in Manila

The Pope arrived in the Philippines for a five day stay after a five-day tour of Sri Lanka


Removing children from the streets is not the only measure being taken ahead of the visit - here a Filipino worker removes dirt next to a poster of Pope Francis in a street in Manila

'There is no question that children should be kept off the streets, but a campaign to do so just for the duration of a dignitary's visit helps nobody except the officials who want to put on a show and pretend all is well in our cities.'


BAHAY TULUYAN/11DEC2015 Youth volunteers walk by the entrance of the Bahay Tuluyan Foundation on Leveriza St. in Manila. The facility acts as an emergency shelter and education center for street children, is one of two recepients of the 2015 Stars Impact Award, which includes a cash prize of $50,000. MANILA BULLETIN PHOTO FEDERICO CRUZ

Catherine Scerri, deputy director of street children charity Bahay Tuluyan, told MailOnline workers had remarked on a noticeable rise in the number of 'rescues' of street children by officials in recent weeks because of the Pope's visit.

'More children have been picked up in recent weeks and there has been a pattern of this happening before big international events in the past,' said Ms Scerri, an Australian who has worked for 11 years to improve the lives of Manila's legions of street children.

'It happened before President Obama's visit to the Philippines in April last year. When we tried to have them released we were told they couldn't come out until after Obama had gone and the children were very much given the impression that they were rescued because of this visit.'

The children can be kept with adult offenders, which leaves them vulnerable during their time in the centres.

A study found the children are taken in for sleeping on the street, for begging, or for stealing food to relieve their hunger, with no proper judicial process.

A survey by Bahay Tuluyan found the so-called 'rescue' operations to round up street children are indiscriminate, targeting youngsters who have committed no offences and do not want to go to detention centres.

Children are taken in simply for sleeping on the street, for begging, or for stealing food to relieve their hunger, with no proper judicial process, and are exposed to abuse and exploitation by older children and adults, the study found.

'There is no reason the shelters (centres) should be like this and what I find soul-destroying is the apathy of the people who work in and around places like RAC and allow this brutality,' said Ms Scerri.

'I can understand a lack of resources, but what I find so frustrating is the violence, torture and apathy and the fact that people are standing by and letting this happen. I think that is completely inexcusable.'

Detained children complained of violence, abuse, poor or inadequate food and lack of sanitation. They are given buckets for toilets and deprived of any education or contact with family members, something Ms Scerri said they found 'incredibly distressing'.

The practice of locking up street children ahead of major international events in Manila dates back to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit of 1996, Ms Scerri said. Children are held for periods ranging from days to months and repeatedly rearrested.


STREET CHILDREN

Children are repeatedly 'rescued' from the streets - with one child revealing they had been rounded up 59 times.

However, being rescued had not helped the 13-year-old: the young teenager was still on the streets.

There have been protests against the centres, but as yet it has failed to stop the policy.
 
Huge preparations are taking place ahead of Pope Francis' visit. Here, a Filipino soldier plays with children as security forces get ready



A child and customer ride a pedi-cab past police as they rehearse security procedures on a road outside the Tacloban airport ahead of the visit

'The RAC and other institutions call these children recidivists even though they have committed no crimes,' she said.

Most people in Manila know nothing about the way children are treated in the detention centres. 'When they find out, they are outraged,' she said. 'People are horrified to find out what the government is doing in their name.'

Social workers and child psychologists help heal the psychological scars of the street children taken out of detention centres in the boys' and girls' homes run by Father Shay's Preda Foundation.



In a harrowing interview conducted for MailOnline by a trained child psychologist at a Preda home, a boy called Ben described how – aged just six – he was abandoned by his mother and then picked up by police last year as he slept on the street.

He woke up in a police station and then spent three months at the House of Hope detention centre where, in cold detail, he described how he was sexually abused by 10 different inmates. 'I was very unhappy there,' he said quietly. Ben is now seven.


MAK-MAK AFTER BEING REMOVED FROM STREETS BY GOVT, CAGED IN DETENTION HOUSE, SAVED BY PREDA

Mak-Mak – who had never before been outside the city and was wide-eyed with wonder at the sight of a cow in a field – leapt out of the charity's van and sprinted across a lawn to a rusty set of swings and roundabouts as soon as he arrived at the children's home.

After playing happily with other boys for two hours, however, he quickly became tearful and withdrawn when questioned gently by the psychologist about his ordeal on the streets and then in the detention centre.

Like other children lucky enough to be saved from the detention centres where more and more children are being locked up this week, the road to recovery for Make-Mak will be a painfully long one. 'There's an awful lot of trauma there,' said Father Shay.

Father Shay prayed Pope Francis will speak out on children's rights during his five-day visit to the Philippines perhaps pricking the conscience of officials in the devout country into taking more care of their unfortunate young.

Meanwhile, however, the only prospect of an escape from the hellish conditions behind bars for countless children will come when the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church – shielded from their suffering – flies back to Rome on that Monday. (JAN 19th, 2015)

· More information about the missions to help street children in Manila by the Preda Foundation and Bahay Tuluyan are available at www.preda.org  and www.bahaytuluyan.org
 


TRIBUNE

Binay slams Noy on SSS hike veto Written by Charlie V. Manalo Sunday, 17 January 2016 00:00


VP BINAY

‘WHY ALLOW CONGRESS TO DEBATE BILL ONLY TO REJECT IT?’

President Aquino has no one else to blame but himself for the uproar he created when he vetoed the proposal to hike the pension of members of the Social Security System (SSS) by P2,000 a month after not objecting to Congress in passing bill which he later vetoed, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay said yesterday.

Binay added if Aquino had really no intention of granting the pension increase to SSS members as proposed by Congress, he should have not let the process take its course.

“I have no idea yet on the proposed bill. But what I don’t understand is why it was allowed to undergo the normal process for a proposed measure, debated for such a long time only to be vetoed in the end,” Binay said.

“You know very well how a President deals with proposed legislations. If he doesn’t agree, he could easily block it. So why did he allow it to undergo the whole process? I am just guessing but apparently, it is really a matter of fact,” Binay said.

To avoid getting in the same situation should he get elected as president, Binay said that in his first 100 days as Chief Executive, he would initiate a dialog among the members of the Senate, Congress and the Supreme Court (SC).

“It would be a waste of time, effort and resources for a proposed bill to be allowed to undergo the whole process, let it be approved by both chambers of Congress only to be vetoed in the end,” Binay said.

The vice president nonetheless vowed to include the issue of the SSS pension increase among his priorities should he becomes president.

“I have always been sincere in helping our senior citizens,” said Binay.

“At a certain point, people would have to retire. At first, maybe their retirement benefit would be sufficient as they would be able to buy a bagful of goods from what they are receiving. But there would come a time when the value of their monthly pension would diminish,” Binay said.

“Thus the need to adjust their pension,” Binay said.

With the uproar it had been facing over Aquino’s veto of proposed SSS pension hike, the government has come with a compromise to deflect the threat of a congressional override, offering instead a P500 monthly increase for the pensioners.

However, Aquino’s offer had been rejected by the youth group Anakbayan calling the predeint’s offer as an insult.

Wrong SSS computation

“They have been giving millions of pesos as bonuses of SSS officials and yet they are saying they have no money for the senior citizens,” asked Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.



Citing computations made by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Crisostomo said that SSS’ huge revenues and reserve funds is more than enough to finance the SSS pension increase.

“Aquino is not only a heartless haciendero but also the biggest liar,” said Crisostomo who disputed Malacañang’s claim that the P2,000 SSS pension hike will lead to a P16 to 26 billion annual deficit for the agency.

Data from EILER shows that the yearly members’ contributions and income from investments amount to P160 billion, which is more than the P56 billion projected annual payout for SSS pensioners. On top of this are the SSS investment reserve funds which are pegged at P428 billion as of April 2015.

Crisostomo also scored the Aquino administration for trying to divide the public by trying to set the 2.15 million senior citizen pensioners against the rest of active SSS members which Malacañang said will not benefit from the pension hike.

He explained SSS members can avail of benefits for sickness, maternity, disability, death, and funeral. They also become pensioners, thus directly gaining from the hike, when they do retire.

The youth leader also suspected that “yellow politics” may be behind Aquino’s decision.

“The main author of the bill is Neri Colmenares, a critic of Aquino’s corrupt politics. He (Aquino) is politicizing pension hike,” he said.

READ MORE...

In fact, the pension hike poses no real danger to the agency’s fund life spanning up to 2029, he added. It’s longer than those of other countries like the United Kingdom which is only up to 2027 and Canada which is even shorter up to 2022.

Anakbayan is calling on all members of Congress and Senate to override the Aquino veto. The group also called on the public to join pensioners in protesting the veto and reject LP standard bearer Mar Roxas who, the group claims, will continue Aquino’s anti-poor daang matuwid.

Aquino not insensitive — Palace


QUEZON III

The Palace countered criticisms alleging the administration lacked compassion to senior citizens for vetoing the SSS pension hike, saying the Aquino government is actually carrying out a number of measures that uplift the lives of the pensioners.

Undersecretary Manolo Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) said the administration has many programs for senior citizens for the past five and a half years.

For instance, the government imposed mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all senior citizens in June last year with more than 4.8 million senior citizens being enlisted under the healthcare program.

This is done by amending the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed by President Aquino in 2014.

Another form of assistance is for indigent senior citizens who received “augmented social pension,” Quezon said.

“The basis for this was the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act which was signed in February, 2010,” he noted.

“The law provided for funds for medical needs of indigent senior citizens through P500 in monthly pension,” he added.

From 2011 to May 2015, some 937,556 senior citizens are under the social pension program, he said.

Also, the government adjusted the age limit for senior citizens to qualify for indigent ‘senior citizens’ pension. Quezon said that from 2011 to 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years and above.

And in 2015, seniors citizens with ages from 65 years old and above qualified under the program. In that year alone, Quezon said 760,736 indigent senior citizens were served by the government.

Also, SSS pension increased by five percent on May 31, 2014.

The SSS also increased the funeral benefits from a fixed amount of P20,000 to a maximum amount of P40,000 depending on the number of contributions and average monthly salary credit as of August 2014.

SSS also put up a voluntary provident fund, called the Personal Equity and Savings Option (PESO) fund for SSS members to provide more avenues for retirement security.

And, together with the national government, the SSS opened a P7-billion educational assistance loan program that started in 2012. And, as of June 2015, over P3.1-billion worth of loans have been disbursed for 67,299 qualified student beneficiaries, Quezon explained.

To lessen the burden for pensioners, SSS implemented two penalty condonation programs in 2011 and 2012 allowing delinquent beneficiaries to once again join the SSS.

Some 406,421 delinquent member-borrowers benefited from this program.

Quezon defended the President after he vetoed the proposal asking for P2,000 across-the-board increase in SSS pension saying the President did the right decision by choosing to prolong the life of the SSS fund.

SSS hails Noy



SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio De Quiros said in a statement the proposed pension increase would have consequences for both the 2.15 million current pensioners and 31 million members.

At least P56 billion would be needed to fund the additional P2,000 benefit for the 2.15 million pensioners annually, he said.

“The PHP2,000 pension increase would lead to a projected deficit of PHP26 billion for 2016, from an expected income of PHP41 billion. As the number of pensioners grows, the initial PHP56 billion in additional benefit outlay per year would increase, which in turn contributes to the rising annual deficit or net loss incurred by SSS,” De Quiros said.

The SSS funds are projected to last until 2042 or 26 years from now.

De Quiros said it would be wiped out by 2029 or in 13 years, as presented to Congress in June 2015, due to recurring net losses caused by the PHP2,000 pension increase.

However, he said, given the low market sentiment and the need for SSS to divest P47 billion to P51 billion in financial assets to fund the increase in pension benefit, the fund life would be further reduced to 2027.

“The P2,000 increase and resulting shorter fund life will greatly affect our 33 million members and pensioners as well as their dependent spouses, minor children and other beneficiaries who are also mandated to receive their own share of SSS benefits,” De Quiros said.

In terms of absolute value, the state-run agency provides members a generous return of P6 to P15 in benefits for every peso they contribute to the SSS.

“SSS financial gains since 2010 to further improve the stability of the fund would be negated if the P2,000 pension increase was approved. It would be shortened to an alarming 11-year period from now,” the SSS top executive said.
The SSS fund life has been strengthened by various financial achievements over the past few years.

Annual net revenues, for example, averaged PHP33 billion from 2010 to 2014, much higher than the P8 billion average for 2000 to 2009; assets grew by 50 percent from P298 billion as of 2010 to P447 billion as of October 2015; and contributions collected by SSS per year were also more than enough to cover expenses for benefits and operations since 2012 with the annual investment income stored in the reserve fund.

More than 100 offices were also established since 2010 to bring SSS closer to members.


TRIBUNE

Political backlash Written by Benjamin E Diokno Monday, 18 January 2016 00:00


BACOLOD. Two senior citizens in Bacolod City join the Bayan-Negros protest against President FROM SUNSTAR 

President Aquino’s veto of House Bill 5842 mandating P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly pension of Social Security System (SSS) pensioners is the right move. Signing the proposal into law would be fiscally irresponsible.

It would have risked the long-term financial viability of the SSS with more than 30 million members for the benefit of some 2.15 million pensioners.

It goes against the “greatest happiness principle” popularized by Jeremy Bentham, founder of modern utilitarianism, which states that: “as a fundamental axiom, it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.”

Why sacrifice the long-term future of the 30-million member SSS for the benefit of some 2.15 million pensioners?

The bill just doesn’t make sense, economically.

Even during the darkest days of martial law, the Social Security System was spared from financial ruin. The late President Marcos did not meddle into the financial affairs of the SSS, a publicly sponsored social security system for private sector workers. Why do it now? By passing the bill, Congress risk cutting short the life of SSS by some 13 years. And it is not as if the members of Congress don’t know this implication for a fact. I’m sure the leadership of the Social Security System told them in clear terms that the impact of the bill mandating P2,000 across-the-board increase in SSS monthly pension would be that the SSS would go bankrupt by 2029 rather than 2042.

WHO’S TO BLAME?
There is enough blame to go around for this political backlash. Let’s face the reality: the veto, though right, will have a negative impact on the President’s approval rating and his candidates’ winnability.

The President could have been spared of a lot of political backlash, headaches and heartaches, had his allies in Congress stalled, frozen, or dribbled the bill. If his allies in both Houses of Congress had political sense, they could have avoided the SSS pension bill from reaching the presidential desk. Even one House will do, because it takes both Houses to approve a bill.

His political allies in Congress — especially the Senate President and the Speaker of the House — should be partly blamed for this mess. Some argue, perhaps to deflect the blame from the President that the legislators pass the bill raising the SSS pension for their own self-interest. How can one go against such a popular move?

The legislators played a game of chicken. Facing reelection or election to higher office, they cannot afford to vote against a popular proposal. (Only Sen. Johnny Enrile had the sense of voting against it). They bet that the President, with his back against the wall, would be forced to sign the bill into law. They bet wrong, but they are off the hook. They can always put the blame on the President. In the meantime, the President and his candidates will suffer the consequences of the unpopular veto.

READ MORE...

The legislators are to blame too for coming up with a popular higher SSS pension bill without identifying the funding source. That’s fiscal irresponsibility.

At the same time, the President is not off the hook; he, too, is to blame. His first mistake is that he failed to communicate clearly to his allies in Congress what his position is on the bill. He should have told them that he would veto the bill if and when it reaches his desk.

By contrast, he was crystal clear on his position on the proposed income tax reduction. His message and body language were unambiguous to Rep. Quimbo, the chairman of the House ways and means committee and to Senator Angara, the chairman of the Senate ways and means committee. Not surprisingly, proposals to reduce income taxes were stopped dead in Congress.

His second mistake is that he failed to manage well his own people. What were the Presidential Liaison to the House and the Senate, respectively, doing when legislators were discussing the bill? Were they sleeping on their job? Both positions have the rank of secretary. They should have briefed the President on what’s going on in Congress.

His third error is one of omission. He ignored completely the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Committee (Ledac). This body is the appropriate forum for coming up with a common legislative agenda and for threshing out differences between the Executive and Congress. If my memory serves me right, Ledac has been convened only twice during the last five and a half years.

This exceptionally useful political institution for closer executive-legislative coordination was allowed to wilt rather than blossom under the Aquino administration. What a pity.

Here are some lessons for the next President. First, make your intentions crystal clear to Congress.

Let Congress know what measures you want passed and what you want blocked or stalled. Second, embrace, support and strengthen institutions for executive-legislative coordination such as the Ledac and the Offices of the Presidential Liaison to the House and the Senate.


MANILA STANDARD

House leader: No override of veto posted January 18, 2016 at 12:01 am by Christine F. Herrera and Sandy Araneta


The day after. Pensioners line up at the Social Security Systems’ main office in Quezon City on Friday, the day after President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the bill proposing higher pensions for the pension fund’s pensioners. Jansen Romero

HOUSE leaders on Sunday waved aside calls to override the presidential veto of the P2,000 monthly hike in Social Security System pensions, saying this was “next to impossible” despite simmering public anger over President Benigno Aquino III’s rejection of the bill.

“The 100 percent attendance to obtain the 2/3 votes [needed to override the veto] is just next to impossible,” said House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez II in an interview over radio dzBB.

He added that President Aquino also told House leaders he would rather earn the ire of two million SSS pensioners than anger 30 million SSS members if the agency’s funds are depleted as a result of the pension hike.

The administration’s refusal to reconsider the pension hike came as Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares revealed that the SSS had P100 billion in collectibles as a result of its inefficiency.

The amount, he said, would cover the payment for pensioners for at least the first two years.

Senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez slammed the government for its lack of compassion or malasakit for pensioners.

Romualdez urged his colleagues to consider overriding the President’s veto because an increase was long overdue, particularly for those getting only P1,200 a month.

In rejecting the pension hike, the Palace said the plan would compel the SSS to spend an extra P56 billion a year for some 2.1-million pensioners.

Gonzales said Congress has never overridden a presidential veto because of the constitutional requirement of a 2/3 vote in each chamber of Congress.

“It is super difficult. It will never happen,” Gonzales said.

“While the House unanimously approved the pension hike and no one objected to its passage, Congress did not also want to be the cause of having the SSS go bankrupt because we failed to pass the accompanying House Bill 6112,” he said.

That bill, which would have authorized the SSS to raise membership premiums, did not pass in the Senate.

“Perhaps the President did not want to go down in history as the President who caused the bankruptcy of the SSS,” Gonzales said.

READ MORE...

But Colmenares, the principal author of the pension hike measure, refused to buy the SSS’s position that it would go bankrupt.

“The SSS should improve its collection performance. In 2004, it failed to collect some P90 billion in contribution remittances. In 2013, they reported that it failed to collect P13 billion,” Colmenares said.

“So we said, you fix first your collection. Why did you fail to collect? That’s automatically being subtracted and withheld from the SSS members yet the employers failed to remit them or the SSS failed to collect them,” Colmenares said.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., meanwhile, said Congress wanted to settle for a P1,000 increase in pensions—double the P500 that SSS executives have been offering.

In a radio interview, Senator Cynthia Villar, the Senate’s principal author of the vetoed pension hike, supported the P1,000 increase proposed by the House.

This would still help SSS pensioners, she said.

In the Palace, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reminded lawmakers to consider the stability of the SSS and the interests of its 30-million members.

“In his speech last Friday in Malolos, President Aquino said he decided as father of the nation and head of a responsible government that he will not pass on a big problem to the next administration,” Coloma said.

“It is also important for all those in their current position to consider the effects of their decision in the future and the welfare of the majority of the people,” Coloma said in response to calls to override the presidential veto.

Aquino’s veto continued to draw fire over the weekend.


“The offer of P500 increased instead of proposed P2,000 is just a fool’s consolation,” Crisostomo said. “They are giving SSS officials millions in bonuses, but they are saying they have no money to give senior citizens.”

Vencer Crisostomo, chairman of the youth group Anakbayan, said Aquino’s offer of a P500 increase instead of the proposed P2,000 was an insult to the elderly.

“The P500 is just a fool’s consolation,” Crisostomo said. “They are giving SSS officials millions in bonuses, but they are saying they have no money to give senior citizens.”

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo echoed the criticism and said Aquino’s action only shows his lack of empathy for ordinary Filipinos, whom he calls his “bosses.”

“By vetoing the bill for increase of pension of SSS members, PNoy [Aquino] has clearly shown that his program of ‘inclusive growth’ is mere rhetoric,” Pabillo said. “Do we vote those who will continue this anti-poor policy?”

The prelate said this was not the first time that the President has rejected a measure that aims to uplift the condition of the poor.

“We must remember that PNoy also vetoed the bill on Magna Carta for the Poor,” he said.

Crisostomo said the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research has data to show that SSS’ huge revenues and reserve funds are more than enough to finance the pension increase.

“The hacienda president not only lacks a heart, but is also a big liar,” Crisostomo said.

EILER data shows that the yearly members’ contributions and income from investments amount to P160 billion, which is more than the P56-billion projected annual payout for the pension hike. On top of this, the SSS investment reserve funds are pegged at P428 billion as of April 2015, he added.

Crisostomo also slammed the Palace for trying to pit the 2.15-million pensioners against the rest of the active SSS members.

In fact, Crisostomo said the pension hike poses no real danger to the agency’s fund life up to 2029, he added. With Rio N. Araja


MANILA TIMES COLUMN

What Philippine officials found in child detention centers anuary 16, 2016 10:20 pm Fr. Shay Cullen


by FR. SHAY CULLEN

“HOUSES of Horror” is how one visitor described the centers where children are held illegally behind bars or in cages.
Senior Philippine officials responsible for the protection of Filipino children at risk made spot inspections of four child detention centers around Metro Manila this week on the orders of Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman following reports in the foreign media.

The officials representing various government agencies were shocked and greatly disturbed when they saw the terrible conditions of the jailed children behind bars in these detention centers run by local government units. The national government has limited jurisdiction over them.

In one center, children are held in these conditions from three months to over one year and nine months. The cells for boys are overcrowded. In another detention center, there is only one social worker to handle the 43 cases. In three centers, the children were in prison cells behind bars. In one jail, a child looked as young as 6 years old.

All the children in another center were barefooted walking on wet floors. One little girl had swollen feet. The children interviewed told the team that they just do cleaning and food preparation all day. Some of the children were mentally challenged and in need of special care. A mentally challenged old lady was in with the children in one center.

The professional fact-finders, accompanied by experienced NGO social workers, did an excellent task. They met officials, social workers and house parents. They observed, noted and took photo-documentation of the conditions. The conditions experienced and observed will confirm previous reports by human rights defenders from non-government organizations.

It was the first such visit on record by government officials of high standing. Four detention centers out of as many as twenty were inspected.

The two teams, making a professional inspection over a period of two days, saw the abusive conditions of dirty, smelly toilets, little children boys and girls mixed with older youth, wearing dirty clothes, unwashed and caged behind steel bars and others like criminals in rooms like mesh cages.

They saw children lying and sleeping on concrete floors. Most centers were lacking beds, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Food was eaten sitting on the floor.

The floors and walls were dirty and one with graffiti. There were no programs for emotional healing, therapy, education, physical exercise, games, books or any mental stimulation. The older boys in one center could touch younger girls.
The fact-finding teams saw that the children suffered 24 hours of confinement with no sunlight exposure. There was bad ventilation and dirty toilets and the smell of urine pervades the place. The investigators asked for the case studies and social workers’ reports, files or records of the children- there were hardly any. Many children were unidentified and without birth certificates and allegedly no effort was taken to find parents or relatives. One child was found to be only eight years old.

READ MORE...

The fact-finding team was made up of senior representatives of the following agencies and the Preda Foundation:

•DSWD-Standards Bureau,
•DSWD-Protective Services Bureau,
•the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council National Secretariat and
•the Regional Juvenile Justice Council and the representative of the Commission on Human Rights.

These higher officials will make their official report to the social welfare secretary who will reveal the truth of their findings to the public. What they did see and can’t be denied is evidence of crimes of child neglect and abuse committed against the children inside these hellholes. It is against Philippine law to put children in jails.

NGO’s have found that some children have been sexually abused by the older youth in the detention centers. One girl was sexually assaulted in the Marikina youth center by a male guard. A criminal case is now in court but he still works in the center with ascendency over the other children. How can this be allowed to happen?

Jovan is one of the hundreds of children thrown inside the barred cells which can only be described as dungeons of death since they die spiritually without love, attention and care and due to physical and sexual abuse. (go to www.preda.org/gallery )

Young girls who are victims of serious crimes such as sexual abuse, exploitation and human trafficking are locked up too in centers all over metro Manila and elsewhere. They are accused as if criminals and not victims and are easy prey for guards and police to be sexually exploited again.

The girls held in separate cells receive no therapy or healing. Many are returned to their pimps and abusers since the sex industry is tolerated and sex bars and brothels are permitted to operate with a city permit signed by the mayor.

The Preda organization cares for victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse and urges the government agencies to arrest the traffickers and rescue the child victims and refer them to the Preda therapeutic home for girls situated in the countryside.

There they will be protected, healed and empowered as strong witnesses and help secure convictions. The children rescued from prisons by Preda Foundation are given a place in a happy home where there are no bars or fences and they experience freedom and respect.

We have to do all we can to tackle the root causes like poverty and challenge the officials who neglect the children. It is intolerable that they have to live on the streets and go hungry, neglected and exploited and then jailed like criminals.

We need to let our feelings enliven our beliefs in the dignity of the human person and turn them into action to free the children and give them a life of dignity.

Visit– http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2906730/EXCLUSIVE-Children-CAGED-God-Police-seize-orphans-chain-filth-clear-streets-Pope-s-visit-Philippines.html
Watch the raid at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xRCk8Ni-cs)
shaycullen@preda.org


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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