Four months and 25 days or a total of 148 days have passed since President Digong Duterte reluctantly occupied Malacañang Palace, and still we have not seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched nor felt any single major change in our social protection programs.
Have the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System and PhilHealth implemented anything other than those that President Benigno Aquino III’s “student council” administration had left?
Of the three, only SSS had been reorganized by President Digong. A few days before Undas, he chose Dean Amado Valdez to be its new chairman and followed this up last week by choosing lawyer Emmanuel Dooc as its president and chief executive officer.
Like the president, both are lawyers who had worked for government before. Chairman Valdez served as the Government Corporate Counsel of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo while PCEO Dooc was the Insurance commissioner for most of PNoy’s term until his latest appointment.
They are thus presumed to have met the Social Security Act’s requirement that they must possess “adequate knowledge and experience…in the technical and administrative fields” of social security.
In fact, the SSS chairman had been explaining—before the new SSS PCEO was appointed —the institution’s position regarding the grant of that P2,000 pension increase that PNoy had vetoed. He probably got the meat of his explanation from the SSS chief actuary and its chief investment officer, and had thus passionately defended the earlier refusal of SSS to grant it.
He may have sounded as if he were representing PNoy as his defense counsel in his veto of the P2,000 pension increase but unlike PNoy, he was amenable to a staggered release of P1,000 in 2017 and another P1,000 in the last year of President Digong’s term in 2022.
According to him, this staggered release will help cushion the “financial impact on the SSS fund” and “provide SSS some leeway to shore up its funds by enhancing its generation of revenues through improved collections and innovative investment activities as allowed by law.”
After Chairman Valdez has lain out publicly what could be the SSS vision, PCEO Dooc was left with no choice except to support him.
Anyway, neither one could ignore anymore the urgency to adjust pensions.
The peso is getting devalued continuously from the July 1 exchange rate of P46.96 to $1.00 and inflation will be rising soon. The moment the exchange rate reached P50.00 to $1.00, the average SSS pension would only be $64.58.
With such an amount, wouldn’t President Digong feel insulted if his American counterpart innocently asks how much his country’s average pension is?
Besides, the staggered P1,000 pension increases in 2017 and 2022 are coming much delayed, and are only slightly better than grass being fed to a dead horse.
And please don’t tell us that they are what SSS would only do throughout President Digong’s six years of presidency. For us pensioners, they are not the only major change that we expect from him.
Chairman Valdez and PCEO Dooc are better off planning out together how to redirect SSS into providing pensions higher than its present maximum of P17,481 and minimum of P1,000. Its P3,229 average pension is simply too low.
For example, GSIS started giving a minimum pension of P5,000 in January 2013. More than three years after, SSS has not made any attempt to bring its minimum of P1,000 any closer to it.
The SSS PCEO and his compañero chairman must now plan for something more innovative other than explaining in legal or altruistic language why SSS could not grant pension increases.
Their predecessors have already done this part well.
Indeed, the SSS tandem must lay out bolder plans of reviving what is now a stagnant and almost moribund or dying national pension program.
If they decide not to shake up the SSS contribution system and consequently its pension scheme, why would a young worker even consider joining SSS? He would only be wasting his time making miniscule contributions now only to receive meaningless pensions 40 years from now.
How would he live at retirement on his SSS pensions without depending on his children’s financial support? Depend on charity from relatives?
It’s different, of course, if he were receiving GSIS pensions.
Try asking a retired public school teacher how she feels about her GSIS pensions when you meet her while she is on vacation in one of our tourist destinations. For comparison, ask also a retired private sector worker who once had a high-paying job on the adequacy of SSS pensions.
You’ll surely get contrasting responses of happiness and bitterness, and understand why GSIS pensioners aren’t demanding any increase.
Maybe, SSS could be left alone maintaining the status quo of its low contributions and pensions, but private sector employees cannot be deprived anymore of GSIS-type pensions.
Congress should now enact a law that would give workers the freedom to choose between SSS or GSIS for their pension needs.
This law would pave the way for the effective integration of private sector workers and their employers into GSIS. More importantly, this freedom to choose would remove the inequity between government and private sector pensions.