LAWMAKERS’ FIGHT FOR SSS PENSIONHIKE BILL CONTINUES
SENATORS doubt Congress can still pass the P2,000 pension hike for Social Security System (SSS) member- retirees during the final session on Monday, pointing out that any move to override President Aquino’s rejection of the awaited benefits for SSS contributors must be initiated by the House of Representatives.
The bill, however, is sure to resurface in July for a fresh start in the 17th Congress.
Mr. Aquino had vetoed the bill in February on serious concerns aired by SSS officials, including actuarial projections that the pension hike would hasten the SSS fund’s slide into bankruptcy.
In rejecting the Congressapproved legislation, President Aquino said he was accountable, not just to the current pensioners, but also future generations of pension holders. “Override must originate from the House where the SSS pension bill came from,” Senate President Franklin M. Drilon told the BusinessMirror over the weekend. “I don’t think there is time,” Drilon added.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III noted that any move to reverse Mr. Aquino’s veto would require more than a majority vote in the two chambers of Congress.
“Yes [Congress can override Aquino’s veto], if there is two-thirds vote of both houses,” Sotto added. Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III observed that Congress has run out of time to marshal the votes needed to reverse President Aquino’s refusal to grant the additional benefits to SSS retirees. “With only one session day left, no more time,” Osmeña said, as the Senate and the House are set to adjourn after Monday’s session.
Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara explained that, under the rules, the initiative to reverse Mr. Aquino veto should come from their counterparts in the House of Representatives.
“It is the House who must do it if it wishes to do so,” Angara said, noting that “the measure originated from there.”
Angara admitted, however, he does not see this happening “since there is an ongoing debate regarding feasibility of the SSS pension hike and the very viability of SSS is put at stake.”
Still, Senators Grace Poe and Francis G. Escudero are expected to push the measure when the 17th Congress convenes in July. During their ill- fated campaign for president and vice president, Escudero vowed that if Congress fails to override President Aquino’s veto, they will put the proposed P2,000 increase in the monthly pension of SSS members on top of their legislative agenda.
Escudero explained that, while his resolution expressing the sense of the Senate to override the presidential veto was only three votes shy of the required two- thirds majority vote, the senators must wait for the action of the House of Representatives, where the SSS pension- hike bill originated.
The House needs at least 194 votes, while the Senate needs 16 to override the President’s veto. Under Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution, the override must be initiated by the chamber where the measure originated.