HAD it not been for the hefty bonuses and honoraria of board members and executives as well as the bad investments of the Social Security System (SSS), it would have been easier to understand the reasons behind the presidential veto of the enrolled bill granting P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly pension of SSS retirees.
The decision to reject the bill hastily approved by Congress barely four months before an election and less than six months before this administration bows out of office is obviously an extremely unpopular move.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd was deemed bereft of compassion for the hardworking retirees because, his critics said, he does not know how to work hard, having been born with a silver spoon on his mouth. The criticisms were harsh and rude: heartless, insensitive, stupid, merciless, indifferent, among others.
The critical public would not accept the reason given that granting the P2,000 pension increase would eventually deplete funds of the Social Security System (SSS) in 11 to 14 years.
If SSS is indeed running out of funds, why then can it afford to grant huge salaries, bonuses and honorarium to its board of directors and executives?
Why does SSS always have to resort to increasing the current members’ mandatory contributions to improve its financial position?
Why is it not running after employers who are delinquent in remitting employees’ contributions? What has it been doing to recover huge losses from its bad investments?
What has happened to the P2-billion SSS funds invested in Belle Corp. on the behest of then President Joseph Estrada? Has anybody been held liable for that?
The hefty bonuses for the SSS board and executives were deemed justified for their “outstanding” performance in raising its collection efficiency from 2010 to 2014 averaging P33 billion compared to only P8 billion from 2000 to 2009.
Starting January 2014, SSS raised the premium of members from 10.4 percent to 11 percent.
Before this move, each of the eight board officers of SSS received at least P1 million bonus for “good performance” in 2012, while its 5,000 or so employees shared P276 million, for an average of P55, 200 each.
Emilio de Quiros Jr., SSS president and chief executive officer, justified the granting of the bonus by citing the pension fund’s net income of P36.2 billion in 2012, which was 42 percent higher than the previous year.
De Quiros reported then that the agency collected P46.68 billion in contributions from January to June 2012, higher by nine percent compared with the P42.72 billion collections over the same period in 2011. In mid-2014, SSS claimed higher efficiency collections by 9.4 percent to P103 billion from P94 billion in 2013.
The SSS ought to explain in clear terms how these increased collection went back to the members in terms of improved benefits, and not to raise the salaries and bonuses of the board and executives.
This time, SSS is again hoisting the option to raise the monthly premium payments of the 31 or so million members to be able to increase retirees’ pension and keep its actuarial position healthy.
Some were blaming the Senate for refusing to pass the twin bill that the House approved to allow the SSS board to increase premiums.
Allowing an increase in members’ monthly contributions is definitely an unpopular move particularly a few months before an election. But increasing pension will surely earn them good points not only from the direct beneficiaries but from the public as well.
The violent reactions of the militants and political opposition to the presidential veto were expected. But those from the Congress leaders were very telling. They knew that the bill would have disastrous effects on the financial position of the SSS, but they also wanted to earn good points for thinking of the welfare of the retirees. They were thinking only of the present, but not about the future.
This was a case involving politicians who have been using senior citizens as pawns in view of the upcoming elections.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the President vetoed the bill because the Senate failed to pass a twin bill approved by the House giving the SSS board powers similar to that of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in increasing premiums.
Belmonte said Aquino only chose to be “fiscally responsible,” instead of being “driven by current politics.”
That was an admission that his fellow lawmakers were driven by politics in passing the bill without taking into consideration the future of the SSS fund. I believe that the President and Congress have the power to compel the SSS to further raise its collection efficiency, and forego the grant of excessive salaries and bonuses to its board and executives.
From the archives, I found out that in June 2014, the SSS granted a five percent across-the-board pension increase for its 1.9 million retired members. With the increase, a person who was receiving a monthly pension of P3,000, for instance, got an additional P150 for a total of P3,150.
The minimum retirement pension varies depending on the person’s contribution period and monthly salary credit on which their contributions are based. The longer the contribution period and the bigger the contribution made when the person retired, the higher the pension.
Under the SSS charter, the minimum guaranteed pension is P1,200 if the credited years of service are more than 10 years but fewer than 20 years or P2,400 if the credited years of service are at least 20 years. The maximum monthly salary credit is P16,000.
The presidential veto should indeed have a backlash on administration allies who irresponsibly allowed and even voted for the bill without considering its consequences just to earn pogi points.
After the violent reactions to the veto, President Aquino could still probably win public sympathy if he will compel the SSS to further improve its collection efficiency and drastically cut, if not completely forego, hefty bonuses.