DAVAO CITY – As the House of Representatives held its last session on Wednesday, February 3, senior citizen’s here took to the streets their call for Davao’s lawmakers to push the override of President Benigno Aquino III’s veto on the pension hike bill.

Mamerta Samarca, 69, and a resident Barangay 76-A, was one of the pensioners who braved the heat in front of the regional office of the Social Security System.

“Kani ang pinakalisod nga panahon. Unsa may kinabuhi sa usa ka libo? Lima ka adlaw, tulo ka adlaw, duha ka adlaw ra (This is the most difficult time. What is the lifespan of a P1,000? It will only last for five days, three days or two days only),” she said of the pension she receives.

Samarca even quipped that she cannot even have her dentures fixed because she doesn’t have the money.

“Wala na gani ta kapalit og ngipon. Nangabali na tungod kay mahal na kaayo. Kulang, kulang kaayo (We cannot even afford to have our dentures fixed. We’re losing our teeth because it is too costly to pay for a new one. The pension is not really enough),” she said.

Her fellow protesters laughed at her joke only to ease their disappointment on the president’s veto.

Meager pension shouldn’t be called “pension”

Samarca said the meager pension she is getting does not qualify her to be called a “pensioner.”

“Murag dili angay nga ingnon nga pensyonado. Pensionado pero ginamos ra ang kaya (It’s not proper to call us pensioners. We are pensioners but we can only buy fermented fish paste),” she said.

On January 18, President Aquino vetoed House Bill 5842 which seeks to give P2,000 increase on the monthly pension of SSS members. The President said the increase would shorten the life of the SSS, which at present has 31 million members.

Joel Maglunsod, vice president for Mindanao of Kilusang Mayo Uno said they will make sure that the voters in the national elections will not forget who were for and against it.

Hope is not lost

While not overly optimistic on the override, Maglunsod said that hope is not lost for the SSS pension hike, saying that in the end, it is up to the public to push for the implementation of the overdue benefit.

“Among our numerous consultations with senior citizens’ associations and workers’ groups, there is unanimity that other proposals below the P2,000-level across-the-board pension increase is unacceptable,” he said.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines also joined the nationwide call to increase the monthly SSS pension.

“We believe that this call is just and humane. The monthly contribution of every member came from many years of forced savings, with the hope that this contribution will sustain their needs for basic things such as medication and food in later years,” said Fr. Rex B. Reyes, NCCP General Secretary.

Bankruptcy reason “shallow”

Reyes said the argument that the increase will push SSS to bankruptcy is “shallow”.

“While we acknowledge that the increase may mean additional expenses for the SSS, the government has the resources and means to augment the social fund if it really has a heart for its pensioners. If it can allocate a budget for projects such as the Conditional Cash Transfer and sovereign guarantees for big businesses under the PPP, why can it not allocate for the SSS fund?” said Reyes.

For Reyes, it will take “a heart” for the lawmakers to push for pension hike.

Pensioners like Samarca said they only hoped that their call would be heard by the leaders whom they put in position.(davaotoday.com)

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