EVEN though the real priority—which is to increase, to a sustainable degree, the paltry monthly pensions received by retired SSS contributors—is as yet nowhere near being met, we have to say that we are pleased with what the backlash against President BS Aquino 3rd’s ignorant and insensitive veto of the pension increase bill has produced.
If Aquino’s move had not provoked such a firestorm of protest, it is doubtful that the state of affairs at the SSS and the plight of the social security fund’s beneficiaries would have been brought to light and discussed in detail in public, as they are now. Without such a strong negative response from the media and the public, it is doubtful that the President and his minions, particularly the secretive bunch who runs the SSS, would have felt obliged to face the public and attempt to substantially defend their actions.
And without such an uproar as Aquino’s falling on the wrong side of this particularly sensitive issue has caused, the proponents of increased SSS pensions—which seems to be a large majority of the country, although there are those who are courageous enough to publicly support the President’s decision—would not also be compelled to think about their position more critically, and offer even better arguments in favor of it.
As our columnist Rigoberto Tiglao pointed out earlier this week, a closer look at the chain of events, beginning with the original proposal of the pension increase and ending with Aquino’s last-minute veto of the measure before it automatically lapsed into law, reveals a disturbing lack of foresight and follow-up on the part of nearly everyone involved—both houses of Congress, the SSS itself, and Aquino’s administration. The matter had to reach a critical point, represented by widespread angry protest, before the mechanics of how a pension increase could be carried out on the one hand, and the deep systemic and ethical flaws in the SSS organization on the other began to receive critical attention.
Of course, things should not have had to come to that, and in more well-behaved societies they often do not. But consider the alternatives if public anger had not been provoked: Aquino’s veto would be unchallenged, and the very serious problems of millions of retirees being forced to live in abject poverty while the pension fund, which is made up from their own contributions and could very easily contribute to at least moderately improving their well-being is criminally mismanaged would remain, unnoticed and unaddressed.
On the other hand, if Aquino had signed the law or simply let it lapse into law without his signature, we might eventually face the very real problem of an insolvent pension fund, thanks again to its bad management epitomized by obscene executive compensation packages, and an embarrassingly inefficient collection performance.
Given these alternatives, it must be said that outrage, although generally not considered ideal or preferable, can do some good. Let’s hope it encourages, or if nothing else, frightens, our leaders into doing their jobs more thoughtfully and with more attention to detail.