Business Mirror - - BMBUSINRESSEMIPRROOR - By Butch Fer­nan­dez @butch­fBM

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.

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