Less than ‘sub-human’

Published by rudy Date posted on May 21, 2011
The hot issue on SSS is now really percolating. This column last week apparently touched a few raw nerves among our readers, many of whom are SSS members, and I did get a barrage of sentiments, mostly from people I don’t personally know but have only now seen fit to let loose their feelings about what they think of our state pension plan.
For those of you who have missed out on last week’s piece, we talked about a recent interview with party list representative Neri Colmenares on his recently-filed bill in Congress seeking to increase to P7,000/month the minimum pension that a retired SSS member in good standing should get. In the course of the interview, we got quite an earful of revelations from the congressman, the most shocking of which was the fact that, as things stand right now, the minimum SSS pension that a retiree gets is P1,200/month, for someone who has worked at least ten years as a member of SSS in good standing. We quoted Cong. Neri as calling this “sub-human”.
The party list representative, backed by extensive research, also revealed that the state pension fund has billions in uncollected contributions. These are the monthly contributions duly deducted from employees but which have not been remitted to the SSS by the employers/corporations.
Our irate readers responded with their own personal experiences. Allow me to reprint at least two of them here, some with edited excerpts due to space limitations.
From Henry V. Te:
“It’s not only sub-human. The Officers and employees of SSS are receiving high salaries compared to those in private companies and yet the pension is too low. My mother who is 72 years old and until now is receiving P1,300.00 per month.
Why?? Because there are hundreds of companies that do not remit their contributions. What makes it worst is that SSS and our government is doing nothing about it.
There should be a law allowing SSS to file cases to those companies that failed/do not remit the employees/ers contribution. Similar to BIR who can run after tax evaders. SSS should be given that power to run after these delinquent companies. If they fail to do it, members should be able to file cases against SSS officials for their failure to do their work.
With your column, maybe we can call the attention of our GOOD lawmakers to do something about this. It’s time we do something on this menace.”
This next one is from a much-respected PR practitioner who was a legend in the industry when he was still much more active. I do not know him personally, but I certainly know of him. I’m talking of Manong Max Edralin who e-mailed his reaction promptly the following day after the piece came out. With his kind permission, I am reprinting it here as it is also an eye-opener and makes for interesting reading.
“I don’t think we’ve met but I read your column. I was a reporter of the Philippines Herald in the 50’s before going into PR. I am at present the PR consultant of Bangko Sentral. I spent the longest time in Citibank where I retired as VP for Public Affairs in 1991.
This is in connection with your column on “Sub-human pension” in the SSS. You consider the P1,200 a month minimum pension at SSS shocking? I retired as Vice President after 18 years in 1991 and I am receiving a pension of P3,971.77 a month from SSS.
I have complained. I happened to know personally Lanny Nanagas and Cora de la Paz, previous SSS administrators. They told me the computations were correct. They put the blame for the low benefits on the fact that SSS started with low premiums. Your benefits are commensurate to the amount of money you pay as premiums, like in any insurance scheme. And they could not raise the premiums without expecting a howl from the members. You can say I’ve been a member from the beginning of time because I started working in 1949. I’ve worked in great institutions like Citibank and San Miguel.
It is a sad story because social security is supposed to be that, you should be able to rely on it to help you in your twilight years. I am 80 years old. The “pension” is not even enough for my vitamins, let alone the maintenance doses that grow with becoming a senior citizen.
I wish you luck in your campaign to get SSS to go after delinquent companies and spend the billions to increase our benefits – and give meaning to social security. At the moment it is a painful joke.”
Thank you kind sirs for your reactions.
It’s hard to imagine that a top-ranked executive who worked long and hard for large institutions like a multinational bank and the biggest food conglomerate in the country receives a measly P3,971.77/month from SSS upon retirement. After working for forty two years, and not as a clerk mind you but as one who rose from the ranks and eventually retired as a Vice President, is this all that a working man can look forward to when he hangs up his gloves?
There is of course logic to the explanation he got from his high-ranking friends at the SSS—our benefits will depend largely on our contributions during our working stint. I am an employer, and I dutifully remit SSS contributions (employees’ and employer’s shares) regularly, and we are not talking of puny amounts here, especially after combining both shares of contributions, and I am hard put reconciling these with P1,200.00/month, or even slightly higher in pension benefits.
But even taking that aside, SSS says they do not have the funds to unilaterally raise pension benefits, from the P1,200.00/month minimum to the proposed P7,000.00/month. Billions in uncollected SSS contributions should provide the ready answer. Imagine how many minimum wagers would benefit from these billions. Add to that the proposed fines for erring companies (P10,000.00 for every P25,000.00 of unremitted contributions to SSS) and our old folks can have a windfall for whatever time they have left in this world. And yes, reader Mr. Henry Te has a point—SSS should be empowered to run after delinquent companies, and citizens can run after SSS officers who fail to do their work.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino. -Ray Butch Gamboa (The Philippine Star)
For comments: (e-mail) businessleisure-star@stv.com.ph

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