WE strongly agree with House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares that the leadership of the Social Security System (SSS) has forgotten its mandate in trying to scuttle the proposed P2,000 per month increase in pension benefits, a measure that is broadly supported by both houses of Congress and the public.
The SSS has claimed that the increase will quickly exhaust its available funds. However, financial details, provided by the agency itself and cited by Colmenares (and furthermore confirmed by an independent check) tell a different story: As of the end of the first quarter of this year, the SSS had P427.4 billion in investments earning an average annual return of 7 percent. In the January-March period, the agency collected P32.2 billion in contributions and another P8.8 billion in investment and other income, against operating expenses of just P1.9 billion. Loans and benefits paid out during the same period totaled P34.4 billion.
As a result, the fund is turning a gross profit of about P1.25 billion per month. Granted, this amount is quickly reduced by the constant addition of new beneficiaries, but by the same token, there is also a corresponding stream of new contributors.
The P2,000 increase would, without any increase in SSS revenues, result in a monthly deficit – i.e., the SSS paying out more than it is collecting – of about P2.8 billion. While that is not an insignificant amount, it still only represents about 6.8 percent of current income, if the SSS were to do absolutely nothing to increase either contributions or investment income.
But as Rep. Colmenares rightly pointed out, there is plenty the SSS could and should do, instead of whining that it cannot imagine how it can meet the new demand without raising the employee contribution amount. It could, for instance, stop procrastinating in collecting long-overdue contributions and fines from delinquent employers who have failed to remit their employees’ contributions, some for as long as 10 years. And the SSS bosses could certainly moderate their own greed by reducing the large bonuses and perks paid out to SSS board members and managers.
SSS benefits are already so niggardly they ought to be considered a human rights violation. Even after the P2,000 monthly increase, the average basic monthly pension per beneficiary will be just P5,169 per month. to put that in some kind of perspective, monthly salary at the current lowest minimum wage in the Philippines (that for non-plantation agricultural workers in Region 1, who earn P220 per day) is P5,720 per month.
Stop complaining, SSS. Do your jobs properly. The money you manage is not yours to covet or to tap for personal bonuses and rewards. It belongs to the people who worked hard to earn it in the first place. The P2,000 monthly increase is barely the least of what they deserve.