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SSS should do better than merely cite law

08:29 PM January 01, 2014

This is in reaction to the letter of Marissu Bugante, vice president, Public Affairs and Special Events Division, Social Security System (SSS) (“‘Kasambahay’ coverage already a must—SSS,” Opinion, 12/17/13). I did receive a letter from her, in response to my letter published Nov. 2, 2013, in this same paper.

Let me begin by saying I have paid the contested demand under some duress, as I do not fully agree with its validity.

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Bugante pointed out that SSS coverage of kasambahay became compulsory in 1993 under Republic Act No. 7655. The same provision was reiterated in 1997 in RA 8282. I wish to emphasize that I do not begrudge social welfare benefits to any kasambahay. What I object to is the fact that no one seemed to have been aware of this law. And while ignorance of the law is not an excuse, there is also a corresponding obligation on the part of the issuing authority to publish and widely disseminate new laws so the public may be duly notified.

I am a daily reader of newspapers. And I can assure you that since my husband and I moved back to Manila in 1997 after an absence of more than 30 years, I never came across any article, or information regarding this law. And I have inquired from dozens of friends, who haven’t heard of it either. I even called our barangay to inquire, and I was assured that the law only came into effect in June 2013. From that point of view, I was nowhere near liable. Or so I thought!

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Nonetheless, so as not to continue being hounded like a criminal, I paid the charges. That would have been the end of that. But no! Wait! After paying the amount, I was told I had to “enroll” the kasambahay. Couldn’t the SSS have done this as part of its service? SSS employees and officials are paid handsomely enough. Instead, I was given an employer’s ID number which—after trying several times to comply with the required registration—was rejected as “invalid.”

BTW, when we were last there, my driver said he met a young man who had been in a motorcycle accident and was at the SSS office applying for financial aid to cover his hospital bills. He had been going there, back and forth, for the past four days. Each day he was told to “come back tomorrow”! I wonder how many more days he has to return to collect the meager benefits due him.

The truth is, I have also tried—at the prodding of friends—to trace my own SSS membership files. Yes, they found me an ID number, but were unable to dig up any information concerning my membership. I am told that all records are destroyed after 50 years.

They did trace someone with my name who appears to have worked with a taxi company sometime in the 1980s. What, me? Working with a taxi company? I don’t even drive!  Besides I was not living in the Philippines during that period.

They also found an SSS member with my exact—would you believe?—name, but decades younger. (Name-clone, please stand up to be recognized!) When I asked them to search for my husband’s records, I was told he had canceled his membership. Unfortunately, he is not in a position to confirm or deny this. He passed on nearly five years ago!

—BLANCHE D. GALLARDO,

retired journalist,

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TAGS: Kasambahay Law, letters, SSS
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