Sub-human pension

Published by rudy Date posted on May 14, 2011

I was aghast at Party List Representative Neri Colmenares’ stunning revelation that the minimum SSS pension as it stands now is P1,200/month!

I think many of us do not know this, but the Bayan Muna representative said, in a most recent interview in the business section of our TV show Business & Leisure that this is the minimum that SSS pensioners who have rendered at least ten years of service before retiring get.

Congressman Neri went as far as saying this is sub-human, and I’ll have to agree with the gentleman.  How far can P1,200/month go, and in your sunset years yet, when maintenance medicines necessarily figure into the equation, like it or not. What about food, clothing, electricity, water, transportation, basic necessities like soap, etc? It’s high time our Social Security System looks into this and rectifies it, pronto.

What confounds me further is the Party List Representative’s claim that last year alone, the agency had P947 million in uncollected SSS contributions from several delinquent companies.  We’re talking here of companies that have deducted the necessary contributions from their employees but have not remitted said contributions to the SSS. P947 million in unremitted SSS contributions for 2010! If that is not shocking, take a look at the total picture of uncollected remittances from these delinquent companies.  To date, the agency has a total of P94 billion in uncollected contributions from these erring companies. These figures were supplied by the Bayan Muna representative.  No wonder some of our aging, ailing pensioners get only P1,200/month in pension benefits.

Actually, Cong. Neri brought this out when asked about the reaction of SSS to the bill he filed (together with Cong. Teddy Casino also of Bayan Muna) recently.  Said bill seeks to increase the minimum SSS pension to P7,000/month, after five (or is it six years?) from passing of the bill. The agency’s reaction was to merely say they do not have the funds to raise the pension benefits, not only the minimum, but those of other SSS pensioners as well. If and when they raise the minimum pension, there will necessarily be a distortion of values, so SSS has to address the distortion by adjusting those benefits which will be surpassed or unfairly approximated by those in the lowest rung. Admittedly, this will cost SSS a lot of money, but the bottom line is: P1,200/month in pension benefits is “sub-human”.

With this uncollected debt, I can see why SSS claims not to have the money to spend on increased pension benefits, but why has this figure ballooned to P94 billion? Even looking at their 2010 figures, assuming Cong. Neri’s figures are accurate, P947 million in uncollected fees for a period of one year is not acceptable. We should have had a string of company presidents in jail by now and millions in fines for collecting, and then not remitting contributions from their employees. This is criminal, because if and when these employees get sick or figure in accidents, they will be deemed delinquent in their contributions, hence not entitled to get full benefit claims.

The bill’s proponents want the government to go after the big fishes—the big delinquent companies who get away with this with impunity and not waste time on the small fish, at least for now. I know of some who are under investigation by the SSS for failing to give SSS coverage to their household help, yet these big companies who have collected and failed to remit these contributions are scot free. Why waste time on these omissions, and then let P94 billion just float by?

The Bayan Muna Representative cited three justifications for their bill.  The second one is the inordinately high premiums/bonuses that SSS directors/trustees get.  Unfortunately, he did not provide specifics for this, just citing “P200 million for five directors from 2007-2009” but seeing how these positions are merited in our system, labeling these remunerations as inordinately high is not fictitious. The Dept. of Budget Management of the current administration has unearthed several anomalous situations where ranking government officials reward themselves with perks that could shame a middle-sized company’s president, knowing their listed salaries need to fall within prescribed limits.

Congressman Neri cites the huge surplus that SSS has at present.  In 2009, he says SSS got a net income of P21 billion. Their retained earnings are such that their actuarial life, which was previously good up to year 2038, is now good up to year 2045.

For the erring companies, the bill proposes 12 years imprisonment for the company officers and a fine of P10,000.00 for every P25,000.00 unremitted contributions to the SSS. It also proposes that half of the fine should go to the government, but the other half should rightfully go to the employee whose contributions were not remitted to SSS.  Previously, all fines went to the SSS coffers, but the bill proponents opined that, being the aggrieved party, the affected employee should receive half of the fine imposed on the erring company.

Because the sudden shift could be problematic for SSS, the bill also proposes that for 2011, those receiving P1,200/month at present should have P2,400, increasing yearly  until five years from now, this amount shall reach P7,000 which should be the lowest SSS pension any Filipino pensioner should be receiving. The bill also seeks to cover all SSS members, but I am sure addressing the distortion problem here will be a very difficult task at hand, and I don’t know if they can come up with acceptable figures in a year’s time.

Five or six years from now, P7,000/month will be worth a whole lot less, and I doubt if the amount can be considered a living allowance, but that is infinitely more decent than the current P1,200 which, curiously, nobody seemed to bother about until this bill came along. I am sure those belonging to the lowest rung, especially those in the countryside will be very grateful for the increased pension.

Meanwhile, the proponents are asking all SSS members to support the bill and petition their district’s congressmen to support it too.

Why not?

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.–Ray Butch Gamboa (The Philippine Star)

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