“This move by the SSS leadership is not motivated by a concern for members of the SSS who are suffering from meager wages and contractual employment.” – KMU
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Amid an armed siege in Southern Philippines, a spate of arrests of peasant leaders demanding land redistribution in Cojuangco-controlled Hacienda Luisita, and while battling accusations of fund misuse via the pork barrel system, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III found the time to approve this week the complained about 0.6 per cent increase in members’ contributions to the Social Security System (SSS).
The national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) which had been campaigning against the hike in contribution, as well as against the other hikes in fees being proposed by the Aquino administration, described the 0.6 per cent increase in members’ contributions to the SSS as “an added burden for workers suffering from low wages.” In a statement, Jerome Adonis, KMU campaigns officer, said the hike is not necessary to increase the members’ benefits.
In Congress, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares also condemned the SSS premium hike. He belied Pres. Aquino’s justifications for the hike.
“Fact is, SSS has the figures which do not call for a premium increase: their assets and investments which amounted to P345 billion ($8 billion); their yearly income of P21-23 billion ($484.4 million to $530 million); the collectibles of P8.5 billion ($196 million); and the perks and bonuses that the SSS management received, which should be subjected to scrutiny,” Colmenares said in a statement.
The Bayan Muna legislator also hinted that within the pervasive culture of fund misuse, referring to the pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles, there might also be similar cases that need investigation in the handling of SSS funds.
“Recall the P200 million ($4.65 million) that SSS executives received in 2010, we still need to recover that. Let’s not even mention the overcharging they did for members’ loans in 2011. It is the efficiency of the SSS management that really has to be increased to prolong the fund life of SSS,” said Colmenares.
The workers’ resentment at the SSS premium hike is also intensified by the pork barrel scam. Adonis said workers resent the idea of giving more of their hard-earned income to the government, as they suspect their money will only be pocketed by big politicians.
The KMU warned members of SSS who will shoulder the increase that this will only go to the pockets of capitalists, as additional funds for the government’s Public-Private Partnership program. SSS has previously announced its intent to invest the workers’ funds into the Aquino administration’s PPP projects.
So far, the workers’ funds are invested in some businesses controlled by groups who are also bidding for the biggest PPP projects. An example is the SSS investment of P23.4 billion ($540 million) in Philex Mining Corporation. The latter is controlled by the business group led by Manuel V. Pangilinan. Philex is still being condemned today by indigenous and environmentalist groups for its long record of “sins” against the environment. They said Philex still has to account for its latest 20-plus million metric tons of toxic minespill in Benguet.
No reason to hike SSS premium, except to increase govt’s investible funds
“The SSS leadership has consistently claimed that the workers’ fund is in a healthy condition. We see no legitimate reason for increasing members’ contributions,” said Jerome Adonis, SSS campaigns officer of the KMU.
As mentioned, SSS reports show it had P343.67 Billion ($8 billion) in assets in March 2012. Its net income increased by P25.55 billion ($589 million) in 2011 and by P36.20 billion ($835 million) in 2012, showing a 42 per cent increase.
According to Colmenares, the fact that SSS has billions of uncollected premiums means it has problems due either to corruption or inefficiency.
“Surely our senior citizens should not be made to suffer due to the fault of SSS management. In the same way that the Bureau of Customs was put to task for its failure to collect revenues, the SSS must be criticized instead of rewarded for its failure to collect unremitted contributions particularly those not remitted by big companies,” Colmenares said.
“This move by the SSS leadership is not motivated by a concern for members of the SSS who are suffering from meager wages and contractual employment. The premium hike is an added burden for SSS members,” Adonis of KMU said.
KMU said the increase in members’ benefits can be done without increasing members’ contributions. It accused the administration of citing the supposed increased benefits only to make the premium hike acceptable to members.
“The SSS leadership still has to come up with a credible explanation as to how a premium hike is needed to extend the fund’s life,” Adonis added.
Even without hike in premiums, there are clear indications that the state fund is not suffering from threats or problems about extending its funds’ life, as the SSS and President Aquino have said in justifying the hike. Employed Filipino workers in the private sector have never stopped paying their contributions to the SSS, the KMU said. On top of that, the active members of SSS “far outnumber its pensioners,” the KMU noted. As such, the state funds’ extended life appears unthreatened.
The SSS has at present 10 million members and 1.6 million pensioners. The SSS leadership said also that it pushed for a premium hike to comply with international standards pertaining to the life of social funds. But the KMU leaders who attended the “dialogues” with SSS questioned the SSS leadership’s refusal to fully disclose to them its investments in private corporations.
Instead of hiking SSS premiums, “Pres. Aquino should support Bayan Muna’s bill, House Bill 175, increasing the SSS pension. HB 175 reflects the real clamor of the pensioners who are our senior citizens,” said Colmenares.