GSIS on pensioners group’s suggested reforms
This refers to Alfredo D. Pineda’s letter titled “Retirees’ appeal: Let change come to GSIS” (Opinion, 7/11/16).
Most of Pineda’s “suggested reforms” are already in place; the rest cannot be implemented because they are not provided for under the law.
- Abolition of the Government Service Insurance System’s premium-based policy. The ability of GSIS to pursue its mandate of providing social security protection to government employees is largely dependent on the regular and prompt remittance of premiums from its members and their agencies. It cannot afford to pay benefits without the premium contributions that sustain its financial solvency.
Republic Act No. 8291 (GSIS Act of 1997) obligates and compels GSIS members and their agencies to remit, every month and without delay, premium contributions in proportion to their monthly compensation. Accordingly, the benefits a member receives must correspond to the premiums contributed to GSIS on his/her behalf.
Since the adoption of the premium-based policy in 2003, GSIS has stopped deducting unpaid compulsory premiums from the retirement benefits of members. In addition, in July 2013, the current GSIS board and management implemented an unprecedented policy stopping the suspension of the privileges of members working in agencies that are delayed or deficient in their premium payments, fully recognizing that members should not be punished for the inefficiency of their agencies to remit their employees’ contributions on time. GSIS has updated the records and restored the full benefits of over 800,000 members, including those of the Department of Education.
- Ban on outright deduction of Commission on Audit (COA) disallowances from retirement benefits and other GSIS benefits. While the deduction is prohibited by RA 8291, the Supreme Court has also made it clear that such a deduction may be made should the retiree voluntarily agree to the same through a written authorization. Such deductions in the past have all been based on voluntarily-signed authorizations.
- Grant of reasonable pension to optional retirees under RA 1616. More popularly known as the “take all” retirement scheme, the benefits under RA 1616 are gratuity and refund of retirement premiums. Pension benefit is confined to qualified retirees who retired under RA 660, Presidential Decree No. 1146 and RA 8291. GSIS cannot grant additional benefits other than what is provided under the law.
- Grant of burial benefits to optional retirees who retired below age 60. These retirees are qualified for burial benefit if they have three years or more of paid premiums. Similarly, members who retired under RA 1616 (before the effectivity of RA 8291), regardless of age but with at least 20 years of service upon retirement, are qualified for funeral benefit.
- Appointment to GSIS board of more genuine representatives of GSIS members, to be selected by the members themselves. The composition and sectors being represented by the GSIS Board of Trustees are specifically enumerated in RA 8291, which likewise lays down the appointment and nomination process that RA 10149 (the GOCC Governance Act of 2011) requires as well. Any change in the current process requires legislative amendments to the law.
- Retroactive implementation of suspended-but-now-restored survivorship benefit (for those who are employed or have other sources of income). The policy having been implemented since 2011, payment of the accrued pension have been paid retroactive to the time when their pension payment was suspended (2009).
- Abolition of the GSIS practice requiring retirees to execute an authorization allowing deduction from their retirement benefits.
This is required by COA Circular 2012-001 (June 4, 2012).
- Exemption of GSIS members from payment of court docket fees in connection with claims filed to recover GSIS benefits. The exemption requires a law; it is beyond the control and authority of the GSIS to grant.
We would like to assure that GSIS remains steadfast in its goal to provide excellent service to its nearly 2 million members and pensioners, as well as to sustain its financial viability for the greater benefit of both its existing members, their beneficiaries and the next generation.
—GRACITA GILDA V. BOCANEGRA, officer in charge, Office of the President and General Manager, Government Service Insurance System
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