The heads of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) presented and shared their united position on the P2,000 social security pension increase proposal pending the approval of Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte.
DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo, DAR Sec. Rafael Mariano, and NAPC Sec. Liza L. Maza presented the paper during last night’s cabinet meeting in Malacanang.
Their paper is titled “Candidate Duterte’s Promise to SSS Retirees Is President Duterte’s Covenant with the People”, and the following is its contents:
The people applauded then candidate Rodrigo R. Duterte when he promised to support the proposed P2,000 SSS pension increase as he justified it by saying that the SSS pension fund was in place for the employees to look forward to when they retire with enough funds to support themselves.
Now, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has all the authority at his disposal to enact the law that would give the SSS retirees an additional P2,000 a month.
Ours is a poverty cycle that is not too hard to understand – an underpaid labor force, which barely has salary savings for itself, financially supports retired parents and young children. The solutions offered within the last decade, while wanting, are attempts to break inter-generational poverty.
The DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilya supports poor families to keep children in school. The rice subsidy for Pantawid beneficiaries ensures that there is food on their table. The Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010 gives a monthly stipend to indigent senior citizens.
The SSS pension increase is a case along this string of social protection measures.
SSS pension is not purely a mathematical equation, it is more of a capital and a social investment issue.
It is wrong to limit the SSS equation to just increases in contribution rates and pension hikes.
The SSS pension fund is not built only through membership contribution by its members. It is also built by prudent investment of the fund in financial instruments that bring yields which exceed at least the inflation rate and the true cost of living for the pensioners.
What has eroded the SSS pension fund is the failure of its fund managers and the government to exercise prudent fiduciary responsibility over its resources. They have allowed the SSS fund managers’ failure to persist despite continued market losses in its investments, costly idle assets, and impertinent asset investments.
F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real
SSS pensioners, present and future, should not be held hostage with fear-tactics – comprised mostly of the unfounded argument that the fund will go bankrupt if a benefit long due to them is given.
SSS fund managers over the years have demonstrated consistently their readiness to losing billions of pesos in taking bets on how their asset placements would perform, but express extreme pessimism whenever initiatives to improve the lot of the pensioners are considered.
The questions that SSS and our economic managers need to answer are:
- How well has the SSS fund performed compared to its mandated programmed support value for its pensioners? Last year, its placements lost P24.5 billion.
- How much does the fund need to earn to support the true cost of living for its pensioners?
- Have the SSS fund managers exercised the full capability of the financial markets to realize their potential capital gains to benefit the program?
- Why has SSS invested in idle condominium units, parking and memorial lots?
- Why has it invested and sat on the board of a mining company?
A change in perspective is a prerequisite to fulfill President Duterte’s promise to SSS pensioners.
President Duterte should uphold his covenant with the people, enact into law the proposed SSS pension increase, and immediately order the following:
- Review and reform the SSS governance and fund management program. SSS governance should reflect the composition of the SSS membership and stakeholders. SSS investment policy should be guided by prudence, social responsibility and optimal returns.
- Evaluate SSS loan and investment portfolio and enforce an effective asset recovery program. Inappropriately created loans should be paid by those who benefited from them and criminal charges should be filed and earnestly pursued.
- Order the SSS governing body to immediately undertake a program that will address collection efficiency, prudent but optimal fund investment program, and earnest commitment to serve the pensioners’ welfare as social investors.
- Immediately address COA’s 2015 recommendations, which include the following:
– Rectify the recording and presentation of collections and current liabilities which resulted in net understatement of total assets by P9.94 billion, and a net understatement of reserves by P11.34 billion in 2015;
– Exhaust all possible means to collect and recover the investments in shares of stocks of closed/non-existing and unlisted companies, including a bank, not paying dividends and immediately collect matured commercial, industrial, and other loans, deficiency claims and investments in closed/non-existing and unlisted companies. The loans under AFSA are as follows:
– Effectively and immediately address the delinquency in premium contributions and penalties of employers in the National Capital Region (NCR) which stood at P4.845 billion as at December 31, 2015; and
– Eradicate idle assets that COA valued in 2014 at P 17.95 billion with foregone revenues of P198 million
An opportune time to effect change
With the SSS Pension Increase enrolled bill at the hands of the President, he can take this golden opportunity to effect changes in the policy direction of the Fund.
SSS exists by and for the people. Private and self-employed members contribute compulsorily to this fund with the expectation of living benefits, especially pension after retirement. In a sense, we invest our hard earned salaries in the company that is, SSS.
We challenge the SSS and our economic managers to have political will to address the inefficiencies in the current SSS operations.
Let this government continuously show its care for the elderly and the poor. They who have cared for us in our formative and dependent years should be accorded our full support. This is our time to pay forward. #