One year after veto
ONE year after then President Benigno Aquino III’s veto, pensioners are about to see another rejection of a congressional resolution to increase their pensions, this time by President Rodrigo Du t er t e.
In the interval between last year’s veto and the fate of the resolution for a P2,000 pension increase pending with Duterte, nothing changed to make the adjustment in pensioners’ money happen. The Social Security System (SSS) that manages the private employees’fund has not introduced anything new to boost chances of an approval by Duterte.
President Duterte is about to veto the congressional resolution because the pension hike would render the SSS bankrupt, the same reason for Aquino’s rejection.
Between January 2016 and now, what did the SSS do to address the projected reduction in funds? It knew early during the election period last year of candidate promises to push for the increase. The issue would not go away. What happened in that period between the veto and now?
The danger of the SSS going bankrupt is not about dwindling funds because of additional money given to pensioners. It’s about inefficiency or inaction by the SSS.
When President Aquino rejected a year ago the proposed pension hike, the Congress then vowed to override the veto, but nothing came out of it. Aquino had said he could not approve the proposal because the system could go bankrupt in 2029. Some legislators said they could fight the President or pass a revised law granting a lower amount of incr ease.
Other suggestions required improving collection performance by the SSS and cutting bonuses and perks for its officers. Nothing came out of this promise as Congress had problems reaching a quorum in its last days. The promise got promptly abandoned.
Then the campaign for the May 2016 elections began and Duterte said he would approve the increase. He said in next pronouncements the pension adjustment would take effect this January.
Last week, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno appealed for understanding when he said, “Candidate Duterte is different from President Duterte and you see that all over, even worldwide. Candidate Trump is different from President Trump. There are promises you make that turn out can’t be fulfilled when you look at the data.”
The SSS, in a resolution separate from that of Congress, agreed to a P1,000 pension increase starting this year, and another P1,000 increase in 2022. The SSS was apparently not able to convince Duterte it could improve collection of contributions from workers and employers to fund the pension hike.
The pension issue is not about depriving pensioners but about what more could the SSS do to protect the interest of members. The fear of making the system bankrupt if the increases were given should have led to drastic changes in the ways the SSS carried out its functions.
It has been a year since the measure was vetoed by Aquino and about the same period since Duterte made the promise, yet nothing has changed. The fear of bankruptcy stems not from additional benefits to members but from SSS inefficiency.