THERE is no reasonable explanation for President BS Aquino 3rd’s veto of the bill granting pensioners of the Social Security System (SSS) a much-needed increase of P2,000 a month. It was a cruel, heartless decision by a leader – we use that term here in the most cynical way possible – who is incapable of empathy, and has absolutely no conception of the day-to-day needs of ordinary citizens.
The measure, HB 5842, would have increased the monthly pensions of SSS recipients now collecting P1,200 per month to P3,200 per month, and recipients collecting P2,400 per month to P4,000 per month.
In his veto message, Aquino decried the benefit for favoring two million pensioners and their dependents at the expense of the other 31 million SSS members, and claimed the additional payouts would result in an annual deficit to the system of P16 billion to P26 billion.
To those two points, we have to ask: So what? What is the purpose of SSS, if not to provide the retirement safety net – and only a partial one at that – to millions of workers, who, it must be remembered, are not receiving a grant from the government upon their retirement, but are having the proceeds of their own contributions to the fund returned to them.
Let us say that again in moral terms: The original SSS funds came from the pensioners themselves. The government only added its counterpart fund to the pensioners’ contributions when they were still working. Therefore, this cruel president or any other President has no moral right to these funds!
Therefore, the President’s authority to control how much pensioners can receive must be strictly limited, because the funds are not his to dispose of: If the people, through their representatives in Congress, wish for the amount of pensions drawn from the funds they contribute to be increased, then the only concern of the Administration can be how best to accommodate that wish.
Some lawmakers have pointed out that Aquino’s veto might have been more likely to be avoided if another measure in the Senate that would have loosened restrictions on the SSS system’s ability to adjust contribution amounts would have been passed, and perhaps that is true. That is not, however, the only possible way that the increased funding needs could have been managed. But Aquino, who along with his lack of empathy also has a very poor concept of duty, did not even bother to seek alternatives.
Although it is considered very unlikely to happen, we hope that our legislators can find their own consciences and reject the President’s shameful decision by overriding his veto. If that does not happen, however, let the next president – whoever he or she may be – understand this very clearly: The adjustment of SSS pensions is desperately needed, and must be done at the soonest possible time. The excuse that it is “too expensive” cannot and will not be acceptable, and if offered will be regarded as another crass attempt to withhold the people’s hard-earned money from them, and deserving of the harshest political and moral consequences.