Duterte hints at rejecting SSS pension hike; progressive solons hit cabinet execs   

Jan. 02, 2017
PRIORITY BILLS FOR JOURNOS. Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate says one of the priority bills that they will re-file in Congress the bill seeking mandatory insurance coverage for journalists and the Freedom of Information bill. (Ace Morandante/davaotoday.com)

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate (davaotoday.com file photo)

DAVAO CITY—A militant partylist group slammed three cabinet secretaries of the Duterte administration for “junking and sabotaging” Congressional measure that would grant the immediate Social Security System pension increase of P2,000 effective this month.

Both Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Chair Neri Colmenares are referring to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Ernesto Pernia.

All three cabinet secretaries claimed that without an accompanying premium hike, the proposed pension hike would supposedly unduly jack up the unfunded liabilities of the SSS from P3.5 trillion to P5.9 trillion.

Pension increase not viable

Pernia, a member of President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team, pointed out that such increase would only be viable if there would be corresponding increase in terms of SSS contributions.

“It’s really as no-brainer in terms of what to do. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody will have to bear the cost,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said as quoted saying in a television interview.

“The prudent thing to do is really to make the members raise their contributions as well as the employers,” he added.

Ahead of New Year, Duterte hinted that the SSS across the board pension increase would unlikely to push through.

“Naunahan ko lang because marami na kasing pumapasok na tawag what happened. ‘Is there or is there not anything to expect in the days ahead?’ I’ll try to give you the honest explanation maybe in the month of January,” Duterte told the state-run PTV4.

“I promised that it would come your way before the year ends. I’m very sorry, but that’s how it is. I do not own the money,” Duterte added.

Scare tactic

But Zarate explained that the P2,000 pension increase “translates to P66 per day for the much needed additional fund for our senior citizens’ food, maintenance medicine and other expenses.”

“This is the same scare tactic used by the previous SSS administration. It would be well for the three (3) cabinet members to stop scaring the people, especially the president, for this phantom adverse effect once the current pension is increased,” Zarate said in a statement over the weekend.

“In fact, with the initial P1,000 increase beginning this month, that would mean just P33 per day of additional funds for the elderly pensioners,” the Davao-based progressive leader said who is one of the principal authors of House Joint Resolution No. 10 granting the increase beginning January 2017.

“The concession to give the pension increase in two (2) tranches, upon strong representations by the new SSS leadership, was in fact allowed by Congress so that the SSS can still raise more funds. Thus, it is utterly ridiculous for the three Cabinet secretaries to say that the agency would go bankrupt,” he added.

For his part, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, said that “the Cabinet secretaries should stop trying to delude the people and Pres. Duterte that it has no funds for the P2,000 pension increase because this is not true.”

“They are trying to sabotage the distribution of the P2,000 pension increase, even if it has actually admitted several times that it has the funds for the pension increase. At most, the increase will only shorten the SSS fund life to 2025- 2029 instead of the current 2042,” Colmenares added. (davaotoday.com)

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