Retirees’ benefits deserve review after third SSS premium hike
In his recent column condemning the immoral—read: “garapal“—bonuses of GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporations) officials, Neal H. Cruz struck the nail on its very head. He said that while the Social Security System give its officials million-peso bonuses and allowances, it pays members, who spent almost a lifetime paying premiums, retirement benefits they cannot survive on (Opinion, 1/17/14). That, alas, is gross disregard of the specific provision of the Constitution (Section 8, Article XVI), to wit: “The State shall, from time to time, review to upgrade the pensions and other benefits due the retirees of both the government and the private sectors.” Needless to say, such periodic review or reexamination is necessary because inflationary factors may render the retirees’ benefits unrealistic.
The Constitution took effect in 1987 and five presidents have ruled this country in succession since then. But I doubt very much that such constitutionally mandated review has ever happened. For example, now 74, I know quite well that I am receiving the same monthly pension that I first did when I retired from private employment 14 years ago. On the other hand, if my memory still serves me correctly, I think the SSS’ monthly membership premiums have been increased twice already in this decade: in 2003 and in 2007. Now, the SSS has the immoral temerity to increase them again, saying the fund is no longer actuarially sound.
In my view, the actuarial soundness of a retirement fund is also the function of the administrative capabilities of the officials entrusted with its management; definitely not solely the function of the members’ continually increasing contributions. That the reason behind the alleged unfunded liability of the system is its multimillion pesos of uncollected dues from members is certainly not acceptable! More so because the officials pay themselves fat bonuses and allowances!
One recalls that the SSS used to cover not only retirees’ pensions and a few other members’ benefits but also medical care and housing loans. I stand corrected if I am wrong, but methinks when the PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig were established, the resulting total premium contributions of private employee-members had to be increased over and above that which they originally paid to the SSS for the combined services, even as theoretically there was no need for such increase, only proper reallocation. Neither were there commensurate employee transfers from the SSS to PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig, which had both practically put up their own staff, executives, buildings and related structures and resources. But that is long moot and beside the point at the moment. The point is the SSS should not, and cannot, now validly argue that they are short of manpower to render efficient services to its members.
At any rate, even as it seems to me the 0.6 percent in additional premium rates may no longer be reversed, my hopes run high that the present administration—probably our lawmakers, by law if necessary—would exhume from its apparent grave the constitutional provision I have earlier mentioned.
—RUDY L. CORONEL,
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