Future looking bright for GSIS
The good news for government employees and retirees is that the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System), the agency tasked with safeguarding funds for their retirement and other needs, is in a good position to meet those needs in the foreseeable future. That is, if the system of good governance and accountability set in place in recent years is maintained and even enhanced.
GSIS president and general manager Robert Vergara, meeting with some media women recently, shared the good news that the system is well-placed to fulfill its obligations to members for the foreseeable future. With its present resources, he said, the GSIS should be able to meet the needs of members well into 2048, its present “actuarial life,” despite recent increases in claims and benefits.
Revenue reached P138.9 billion in 2013, and at least until last September, revenue amounted to nearly P120 million. Among other factors,
Vergara said, the GSIS’ strong performance was due to policies enacted by its present board, including the wise investment of its resources and the sale of “nonperforming assets” including properties that earned it some P1.1 billion.
This despite increased outlays to meet the needs of GSIS members, especially in the wake of Typhoon “Yolanda” and other calamities. Members living in areas severely damaged by Yolanda, for instance, were able to avail themselves of bigger loans, from a cap of P20,000 to P40,000. Even retired pensioners in these areas were able to borrow from the fund, the monthly amortization deducted from their monthly pensions.
To help calamity victims even more, the GSIS also implemented a loan moratorium program, deferring payment of amortization for six months from November 2013 to April this year, and then, in response to clamor from members, extending the period to another six months until Oct. 31.
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It wasn’t just civil service workers who benefited from the GSIS’ Yolanda response. Claims totaling some P350 million were also settled for government agencies whose offices and facilities were damaged by Yolanda. These included the Tacloban airport, the NFA Leyte provincial office, the city hall of Bogo, Cebu, Eastern Samar State University, and other government buildings.
As for government employees outside the Yolanda areas, they have been benefiting from streamlined operations and more efficient collections and record-keeping, said Vergara.
For instance, retirees don’t need to show up at GSIS offices or banks to prove that they’re still alive and eligible to receive their pensions, unlike, say, in the SSS (Social Security System). This is because the government insurer has an arrangement with the national statistics board that tracks the death of any member.
At the same time, the GSIS was able to shorten the “turnaround time” in the processing of loan applications by reducing the number of documentary requirements, electronic crediting of benefits to the accounts of members and retirees through their eCard, and the implementation of the “file anywhere” policy.
His stint at the GSIS has even had an impact on Vergara’s family life. Previously based in Hong Kong where he was an expatriate executive, Vergara said he was sufficiently “moved” by P-Noy’s ascendancy to the presidency that he submitted his biodata for consideration by the administration. This, despite the fact that he and the President did not know each other.
But in the years since his appointment to the GSIS, he has come to call the Philippines home, Vergara said. And his children feel the same way.
Here’s hoping father and children don’t have reason to rue their homecoming.
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The country and the world recently observed the 25th anniversary of the passage and adoption by the majority of the world’s countries of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document that codifies the basic rights of children and the obligations of adults and governments to respect and implement these rights.
And yet, say child’s rights groups, President Aquino must use the remaining days of his term to fulfill—meaningfully and comprehensively—the country’s commitments to the convention.
The call was issued in the light of reports showing continuing violations of children’s rights here.
For one, the group Bata Muna (Children First) is calling on the government to push policies that would protect and promote the rights of Filipino children. They referred in particular to the lack of “representation” of 43 million Filipino children in local governments. This is because elections for the Sangguniang Kabataan or Youth Council have been deferred for some time now due to accusations that the SKs were being coopted by corrupt officials.
“The Philippines is recognized globally for having the Sangguniang Kabataan,” said Bata Muna spokesperson Dennis Velasco of Zone One Tondo Inc. (Zoto). “The issues being hurled at SK have pushed moves for law reform [but] the reform bills … include proposals to increase the age of those who will vote for and can run for seats in the SK from 15-17 to 18-24 years old. This provision will threaten children’s formal representation in the local government and will systematically exclude them from participating in the local governance process,” he said.
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Bata Muna is also calling on Congress to prioritize the passage of a bill promoting “positive and nonviolent discipline of children.” The proposed law is now up for floor deliberations in the House, although a counterpart bill has not moved at all in the Senate.
The prohibition by law of all forms of corporal punishment in the home and in school, in alternative childcare and places of work is one of the recommendations provided by UN experts on the protection of children.
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