2 SSS execs in stock market scandal face probe for bribery, says official

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TWO of four officials of the Social Security System (SSS) accused of using agency information on stock market placement for their personal enrichment will also be investigated for alleged bribery, Commissioner Jose “Pompee” La Vina said on Tuesday.

“The reports that I have received say that these are six-figure cash bribes, based on the volume that SSS gives to its stockbrokers,” La Vina said in a media briefing, saying that at least one stockbroker may be bribing officials in the agency’s investments sector.

He did not name who among Vice President for Investments Rizaldy Capulong, Vice President for Equities Investment Division Reginald Calendaria, Equities Product Development Head Ernesto Francisco Jr., and Actuarial and Risk Management Division Chief George Ongkeko Jr. were allegedly accepting bribes because the reports “still have to be verified”. He added that his oversight committee would draft the second complaint and would be subject to approval by the commission.

“If we have probable cause, there may be no action required. The Ombudsman might already file the charges against them,” he said.

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La Vina filed an administrative complaint against the four whom he accused of allegedly giving the pension fund’s business to stockbrokers and using the same brokers for personal profit in what he said was a “clear conflict of interest.”

Nakakuha sila ng allocations dahil sa position nila. One made around P500,000 in two weeks while one made about P200,000 to P300,000” La Vina said.

SSS Chairman Amado Valdez said that Ongkeko and Candelaria had resigned while Capulong and Francisco had been suspended.

The state-run pension agency also assured its members that the controversy “did not involve SSS funds” and was less likely to affect a possible raise in their monthly contributions.

The SSS currently has about 35 million members who contribute monthly. Based on its latest figures, the funds have reached P500 billion.

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is seeking the implementation of major reforms at the SSS to include fixing its system of collection before requiring new contributions from its members.

The group, through TUCP president and partylist Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza, pointed out that the “SSS was now facing a credibility crisis which must be urgently resolved in a transparent manner.”

It stressed that the there was an immediate need to assure SSS members that their funds were not only intact but more importantly safe from alleged crooks inside the system.

“There is a need to ensure that the procedures in the SSS work; that shortcuts are not being taken; and that the SSS is doing all due diligence. The SSS is not the private piggy bank of anyone in top management. Nor should privileged information obtained in favor of SSS be utilized for private commercial gain by its top officials,” Mendoza said, as he called for a full, fair, comprehensive, and independent investigation of the controversy.

Likewise, the group also urged the SSS to exercise caution on its plan to raise members’ contribution rates in 2018, recommending that it should first strengthen its collection mechanisms and go after errant employers rather than raising the contribution of workers.

Records show that of the 34.6 million registered SSS members, only 14 million are paying their monthly contributions.

The current SSS contribution rate is pegged at 11 percent (7.37 percent employer share, 3.63 percent employee share). All workers in the private sector who receive at least P1,000 (minimum salary credit) up to P16,000 monthly salary (maximum salary credit ) are covered by the SSS with P110 and P1,760 monthly contributions, respectively.

SSS proposed to increase the monthly contribution rate to 12.5 percent and to increase the maximum monthly salary credit to P20,000.

 

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