One year after veto

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION - NINI B. CABAERO

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.

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