WHO sez President BS Aquino The Last was heartless in vetoing the bill giving a P2,000 hike in the monthly pension of retired Social Security System (SSS) members? He immediately saw that signing the bill means the SSS executives who are dear to his heart will lose millions of their perks.
As a caring person, he couldn’t bear to see his dearest friends, especially those in the top 10 percent of society, get less than what they had been enjoying. He had just approved the increase in the monthly pay of the SSS president by P200,000, of the vice president by P150,000 and of about 250 legislators by P100,000 each so why should he allow a decrease in the pay and perks of SSS execs? See? He wants to spread the sunshine. He doesn’t play favorites among those close to him.
The President need not look at how the SSS fiduciary fund is being managed by his appointees. Are the investments of the fund making money for the SSS and not for the execs? Was the purchase of masterpieces in painting needed by SSS members? And, has the SSS been true to its mandate? These issues may not matter to him as long as the enjoyment of the excess fat continues.
But what about the pensioners, you might ask. Well, they’re good only while they were contributing to the SSS funds. Now that they’re out of work and old, they must have limited enjoyment of the fruits of their labor or it would adversely affect the younger, more numerous SSS members. This country is for the young, remember?
They say that a minimum wage of P15,000 a month is too low for a family of four. Well, the administration wants retirees to live on as low as P2,400 a month. The retirees should learn how to make do with their meager monthly pension.
Sure, the retirees still need money for food, clothing and shelter but they’re now eating less food. The administration knows that most of them have various ailments attendant to ageing and are now eating less. That means less money needed for food. It also believes that most of the retirees don’t need more money for traveling as they now often stay at home. So, what do they need the increase for? Ano sila, sinuswuerte?
Defenders of the veto maintain that it would be difficult to the additional P56 billion a year for the pension hike. Yes, yes, there are billions and billions of pesos in the government coffers, courtesy of the underspending administration, but the money can’t be used for retirees. Not in an election year. Not while legislators seek their pound of flesh for helping the administration on any conceivable issues.
Get the money from other government projects? That’s unthinkable, election year or no election year! This means a decrease in kickbacks and ghost projects. How can the President allow this dreadful thing to happen? He’s thinking of the future according to his drum beaters, remember? Er, do they mean his future?
Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, principal author of the House bill on pension hike and a senatorial hopeful, is urging Congress to override the President’s veto. He’s dreaming. A veto override is appropriate but it will never happen, especially in the Bigger House. The House can’t even muster a quorum (50 percent plus one of its members) so how can it get the two-thirds vote needed to override the veto?
Senate President Franklin M. Drilon (FMD) says the Senate will review the bill and come out with a version acceptable to the executive department. At the same time, FMD (for Franklin M. Drilon, not Foot and Mouth Disease) expressed his respect for the President’s action. This is reassuring to SSS execs for it means it will take more than one year more before the aging and aged retirees will enjoy an increase in their pension.
The proposal of Senate President Pro-tem Ralph Recto is the most down-to-earth. Ralph, one of my favorite senators and whom I have covered at the House and the Senate, said that a faster route is for the President to issue an administrative order which is allowed by law.
“Raising pension is not just via the legislative route. Congress only stepped in because SSS froze pension amelioration measures,” he explained, while stressing that it’s about time the pension of retired SSS members is increased.
Senator Ralph, a reelectionist, said the President may recommend an amount that he thinks is suitable and supportable by SSS finances, then convey this to the SSS board. He added that the increase can be enforced by an SSS board resolution.