LAWMAKERS QUESTION SSS PREMIUM INCREASE

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris­tine O. Aven­daño and DJ Yap @Team_In­quirer

Not so fast.

Sev­eral lawmakers said the So­cial Se­cu­rity Sys­tem (SSS) would vi­o­late the law if it in­creased the monthly con­tri­bu­tions of mem­bers so it could raise the pen­sion of some 2.2 mil­lion re­tirees.

Aday af­ter Pres­i­dent Duterte gave the SSS the go-sig­nal to grant a P1,000 increase in pen­sion ef­fec­tive Jan­uary, Senate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Franklin Drilon said the move was “com­mend­able” but “should not be used to jus­tify an increase in the premium pay­ment.”

“The SSS is not al­lowed to raise the premium rates so it can increase ben­e­fits,” Drilon said in a state­ment.

So­cial Se­cu­rity Law

SSS Chair Amado Valdez said the P1,000 pen­sion increase re­quired a cor­re­spond­ing increase in the monthly con­tri­bu­tions of ac­tive mem­bers from 11 per­cent to 12.5 per­cent. The increase in premium, to be shared by em­ploy­ees and their em­ploy­ers, will take ef­fect in May.

Drilon said Sec­tion 4 of Repub­lic Act No. 8282, or the So­cial Se­cu­rity Law, pro­hib­ited the SSS from rec­om­mend­ing an increase in ben­e­fits that would re­quire an up­ward ad­just­ment in con­tri­bu­tion.

“The increase in ben­e­fits of our pen­sion­ers must not come from a sim­i­lar increase in the bur­den shoul­dered by cur­rent SSS con­trib­u­tors. The law is crys­tal clear in that re­gard,” he said.

Sec­tion 4 (2) of the So­cial Se­cu­rity Law states that the “SSS shall have the pow­ers and du­ties to pro­vide fea­si­ble in­creases in ben­e­fits ev­ery four years, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of new ones, un­der such rules and reg­u­la­tions as the Com­mis­sion may adopt, sub­ject to the ap­proval of the Pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines: Pro­vided, that the ac­tu­ar­ial sound­ness of the re­serve funds shall be guar­an­teed: Pro­vided, fur­ther, that such in­creases in ben­e­fits shall not re­quire in the rate of con­tri­bu­tion.”

Sen. Bam Aquino said the increase in the premium pay­ments by mem­bers sur­prised him and the busi­ness com­mu­nity. “While the 1.5-per­cent increase is small but when you sum it all, it is a big thing,” he said.

Aquino said he fa­vored the SSS im­prov­ing its ef­fi­ciency in col­lect­ing con­tri­bu­tions “and not increase the premium of mem­bers.”

Wel­come state­ments

Senate Pres­i­dent Aquilino Pi­mentel III wel­comed the increase in pen­sion.

“The mere fact that it took time for the Pres­i­dent to ap­prove the said amount means that the is­sue has been stud­ied well and the SSS fund is not put in any jeop­ardy even af­ter the increase,” Pi­mentel said in a text mes­sage.

Sen. Richard Gor­don said the pen­sion increase was “very much” wel­comed by pen­sion­ers.

In a state­ment, Gor­don said the Senate would have to pro­vide “ap­pro­pri­ate leg­is­la­tion to help the SSS be­come an even more out­stand­ing man­ager of the fund so that it could ex­pand its mem­ber­ship, max­i­mize the use of its as­sets and in­vest the funds in projects that would en­sure a healthy re­turn on in­vest­ments.”

The Senate com­mit­tee on gov­ern­ment cor­po­ra­tions and pub­lic en­ter­prises of Gor­don ear­lier came out with a res­o­lu­tion seek­ing a P2,000 increase in the pen­sion of re­tirees, the first P1,000 to be given sup­pos­edly last De­cem­ber and the sec­ond P1,000 in 2019.

House leg­is­la­tion

In the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Ma­jor­ity Leader Rodolfo Far­iñas said Congress could still pur­sue en­abling leg­is­la­tion for the P2,000 increase in pen­sion for SSS re­tirees even though Pres­i­dent Duterte had ap­proved the hike.

Far­iñas said the House was poised to take up on third read­ing Joint Res­o­lu­tion No. 10 rais­ing the SSS monthly pen­sion, and House Bill No. 2158 ra­tio­nal­iz­ing and ex­pand­ing the pow­ers of the So­cial Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion.

Both mea­sures were passed by the cham­ber on sec­ond read­ing last month.

—LYN RILLON

CALL FOR ACTION Mil­i­tants have for months been de­mand­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a P2,000 increase in So­cial Se­cu­rity Sys­tem pen­sions dur­ing pick­ets out­side the agency’s main of­fice on East Av­enue in Que­zon City.

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