OFFICIALS of the Social Security System (SSS) made no commitment to effect reforms in the agency during recent talks with two leading moderate labor organizations on increasing monthly pensions of about 1.8 million retired workers.
Alan Tanjusay, advocacy officer of Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and spokesman for the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said the meeting between the leaders of the two groups and the pension fund officials headed by Commissioner Bong Malonzo on Wednesday at the SSS main office in Quezon City, however, came up with at least three proposals to eventual hike in the monthly pensions.
These proposals, according to Tanjusay, were: internal reforms implementation within the SSS (cost-cutting, improving collection, prosecuting delinquent employers, stopping unnecessary expenses); government subsidy; and firing all media staff for not communicating effectively to members particularly to pensioners before, during and after the vetoing” by President Benigno Aquino 3rd of a P2,000 monthly increase in the pensions of retirees.
Malonzo accepted the proposals in behalf of the SSS leadership, the TUCP spokesman said, but did not make any commitment to any of the proposals.
The meeting was requested by the ALU and TUCP after the SSS publicly supported the President’s rejection of the proposed P2,000 across-the-board hike in SSS pension.
The pension fund said it would end up bankrupt by 2029 if the increase was granted.
Transparency was demanded of the SSS by a senatorial candidate and former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino.
“I am pushing for transparency. What is the SSS doing with the contributions? If they have investments, they should publish it on the SSS website for all the people to see and scrutinize. The problem is that the millions of SSS members do not see that. It is their right to be informed about where their money is being used,” Tolentino said on Thursday.
He added that the pension fund should emulate its US counterpart, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which publishes yearly its investments.
“Every move by the California pension fund is seen by members,” Tolentino noted.
SSS drew criticism from the public after the President’s veto.
“I respect President Aquino, being my former boss, but Congress also has the prerogative to override the veto. The important thing is to give more benefits to retirees so they can fully enjoy the money that they put in the pension fund. I favor giving them an increase in their monthly pension,” Tolentino said.
He proposed implementation of the Personal Equity and Retirement Account (PERA) Act of 2008, a law that he said will give just gratuities and retirement benefits for retirees.
The law establishes a PERA for exclusive use and benefit of a contributor, defined by the law as anyone who has the capacity to have a tax identification number (TIN), with the purpose of being invested solely in PERA investment products in the Philippines.
Tolentino said each contributor will retain the ownership of all funds placed in investment products.
It’s about time that we implement the PERA Law to maximize the benefits a retiree can get,” he added.
WITH FRANCIS EARL CUETO