PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III and top officials of the Social Security System came under withering fire Friday after the President vetoed a bill that would have raised pensions across-the-board for retirees by P2,000.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano called on legislators to end the executive branch’s legacy of vetoing important laws by overriding Aquino’s veto.
“It is time for Congress to stand up for our millions of pensioners and give them the pension that they need,” Cayetano said.
“We must stand up against the executive’s awesome powers and ensure the passage of important laws that will help alleviate the lives of our people and show that we are the people’s voice and not just a rubber stamp of Malacañang,” he added.
Cayetano said social security is meant to help pensioners after their retirement cope with the costs of living without their regular salaries. “But what good is social security if what they get is so low that it cannot even meet their barest needs?” he said.
Cayetano, who is running for vice president, also noted that Aquino had blocked social legislation such as the Magna Carta for the poor and the lowering of income tax rates for working Filipinos.
Cayetano vowed to lead the charge in mobilizing the legislature, which need a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate, to override the veto.
“For the sake of our struggling people, I will do everything in my power to counter this veto. It is an uphill battle but a fight that must be waged nonetheless. We owe it to the people, especially the vulnerable such as the elderly, the sick and the unemployed,” Cayetano said.
In his veto message, Aquino said the stability of the entire benefit system would be “seriously compromised” if the proposed pension hike were implemented.
But Cayetano said Aquino’s fear was based on the wrong assumptions, and that the SSS should have institutionalized long overdue reforms such as increasing its rate of contribution collection and expanding its investment reserves.
The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan tore into officials of the SSS for insulting its members and pensioners by receiving “fat paychecks and bonuses” after insisting to President Aquino that the pension funds would be depleted by the proposed P2,000 increase.
The group added that the government needed its inefficiency in collecting contributions for the pension system.
“The Aquino government keeps saying that the SSS does not have enough funds to finance the pension hike, yet for the longest time, the problem of collection efficiency has not been addressed,” Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general, said in a statement.
“Despite the apparently low collection efficiency rate, SSS officials have previously received fat bonuses from government. To SSS members and pensioners, this is a big insult,” he added.
The 2014 report by state auditors showed SSS officials are among the top paid government employees in the country.
SSS president and chief executive Emilio de Quiros earned P6.84 million from the SSS. This included a P2.25 million bonus. In 2013, De Quiros received a total of P7.1 million, which included a P1.9 million bonus and P3.4 million in allowances. Other officials got millions in bonuses also for that same year.
The SSS also paid millions to two executive vice presidents, seven senior vice presidents, 16 vice presidents and eight members of the board of directors.
“If SSS is in such a bad shape, why does the Aquino administration continue to reward its officials with huge salaries, allowances and bonuses? Why reward inefficiency then cite the same inefficiency to deny pensioners a raise?” Reyes asked. With Gabrielle Marie , Consuelo H. Binaday
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