Government officials should be the first to follow the law. They should pay their employees the right salaries and benefits. They should be the first to remit mandatory workers’ contributions to the Government Service Insurance System, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and the Pag-IBIG Fund.
I have been citing in this column local government units (LGUs) that have been remiss in these duties, like Pantabangan municipality in Nueva Ecija, under its former mayor Romeo Borja Sr., which had failed to pay the salaries and other benefits, including the clothing allowance, 13th month pay and productivity incentives of their employees and also did not remit their premiums to the GSIS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG.
Borja lost in the last elections. I sure hope the town employees are now being paid on time under a new leadership and that they are receiving the proper benefits.
Pantabangan is a first class municipality and has the highest income among towns and municipalities in Nueva Ecija. It’s supposed to have the money if its elected officials are not fiddling with the funds.
This is why people should vote only for candidates who will look after the best interests of their city or municipality.
But back to fiddling with funds. Pantabangan’s delinquency is not an isolated case.
The GSIS recently reported that a total of 178 government agencies owe the state pension fund some P1 billion in unremitted premium payments.
GSIS President and General Manager Robert Vergara said that of the 178 government agencies, 83 are LGUs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Vergara said some of the arrears date all the way back to 1997, and the interest and surcharges have discouraged the government agencies from settling their accounts with the GSIS.
To encourage a quick and widespread settlement, the GSIS bared a plan to condone interest and surcharges on members already far behind in their monthly contribution.
The GSIS aims to sign a memorandum of agreement every week for each of the 178 government agencies to provide them with a way to pay their arrears to the GSIS in as painless a manner as possible.
Vergara said the agreement memoranda provide for the condonation of surcharges on the arrears of the respective government agencies.
Aside from the waiving of the 2-percent monthly surcharge, Vergara was also authorized by the GSIS board of directors to condone up to 60 percent of the accumulated interest on the arrears, up to a maximum amount of P75 million in interest.
He said the arrears impact some more or less 11,000 GSIS members whose memberships have been suspended because of the non-remittance of their contributions.
My question is what happened to the money? In many of these cases, the government employees have been dutifully paying their contributions—they have to because these are automatically deducted from their salaries—so if these are not remitted then the money was certainly stolen by corrupt officials.
Now, we can’t just let that slide.
In the past, I’ve written of many retiring public school teachers who have failed to get their retirement benefits despite having fully paid their premiums.
The teachers have been the most vocal about their GSIS contributions and rightly so. They give P375 million in monthly contributions or P4.5 billion in annual contributions to the state pension fund and they comprise more than one-third of the 1.7 million total membership of the GSIS (if you include the non-teaching personnel).
We can see from the GSIS report that teachers are not alone in their GSIS gripes, and why other public servants have been complaining of delayed and/or reduced pensions; discrepancies in remittance records of premium and loan payments, for which members were denied salary loans or incorrectly incurred arrears; and phantom borrowings.
Before, they blamed the failed GSIS computerization project undertaken by former GSIS President Winston Garcia. If the erroneous database containing members’ records had been fixed and the problem is simply non-remittance then who should be brought to court?
Like I said, these are automatic deductions that GSIS members have been paying, so the people who did not remit these funds certainly fiddled with them.
When retirees don’t get their pensions on time, they don’t care about excuses. They will simply suspect that their pensions have been stolen one way or the other, or that GSIS does not have the money and is simply stalling payments.