The state-run Social Security System on Tuesday said it would seek the issuance of an Executive Order or the enactment of the proposed amendment of Republic Act 8282 or Social Security Law of 1997 to fulfill the promise of President Rodrigo Duterte to give additional benefit to SSS pensioners.
SSS president and chief executive officer Emmanuel F. Dooc issued the statement following a clamor from pensioners to release another P1,000 additional benefit next year.
Dooc said that the second tranche of the additional benefit could only be granted either through the issuance of an EO from Malacañang or the approval of the proposed bill that will amend the SS Charter.
“We do not have the power to give an additional P1,000 benefit by next year. The SSC does not have the power to adjust the contribution rate or amount of monthly pension, only the President of the Republic and Congress have the power to approve a pension increase,” Dooc said in response to the call from pensioners to implement the second tranche of additional pension by 2019.
“Just like what I have said earlier, our goal here in SSS is to see to it that we are able to release the second tranche [of pension] still within the term of President Duterte, which can be approved in 2022 during his last year in office,” Docc added.
President Duterte on January 2017 announced the approval of the P2,000 additional pension and granted the first P1,000 on the same year while the remaining P1,000 will be released by 2022 coupled with a financial mechanism that will sustain the viability of the pension fund.
Dooc said the pension fund shelled out some P33 billion in 2017 for the implementation of the first P1,000 additional pension. The amount needed for the implementation of the second tranche of the pension increase will be slightly higher as the number of pensioners increase every year by an average of 100,000.
He explained that the pension fund performed well in its duty to increase contribution collection to suffice the growing benefit disbursement of SSS. He noted that the pension fund contribution collection in 2017 increased by 10.6 percent from P144 billion in 2016.
“We recorded P159 billion in contribution collection in 2017. This shows that our efforts to collect from employers and individual members have become effective. For 2018, we aim to improve collection further by around 18 to 20 percent over last year,” Dooc said.
He added that to strongly support the implementation of the second tranche of pension increase, there should be approval of either an increase in contribution rate or adjustment in the minimum and maximum monthly salary credits in SSS.
Dooc said the SSS could generate some P7 billion in the last quarter of 2018 should the proposal of 1.5 percent increase in contribution rate, adjustment of the minimum salary credit from P1,000 to P4,000, and maximum salary credit from P16,000 to P20,000 be implemented by October.
The SSS President said the proposal to increase the contribution rate is vital for the pension fund, its pensioners and its current contributing members. “This is important to support the viability of the pension fund and to assure our current members that the SSS will still be there in their times of contingencies para mapanatag ang kalooban ng mga kasalukuyang miyembro (to appease our current members)”
After implementing the first tranche of the additional benefit in 2017, the SSS fund life dropped from 2042 to 2032 last year. Should the second tranche of additional pension be implemented in 2019 without any funding mechanism, the SSS will have a fund life of seven years or until 2026.
Meanwhile, two militant lawmakers on Wednesday denounced the SSS plan
to delay the implementation of the second round of pension hike to 2020 instead of 2019.
ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro said Dooc’s proposal will affect some 2 million SSS pensioners whose benefits are already slashed significantly by Republic Act RA 10963 or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
Dooc had said that it would be”difficult” for the SSS if the second round of pension increase pushes through next year without an increase in its contribution rate. A P2,000 increase in SSS pension benefit was approved last year with an initial P1,000 additional monthly and another P1,000 to be granted beginning 2019.
“The proposal of SSS president and CEO Emmanuel Dooc will deliver a hard blow to some 2 million SSS pensioners whose benefits are already slashed significantly by TRAIN, which has rammed the people with a 4.5 percent inflation rate,” said Tinio.
Tinio and Castro also cautioned President Duterte not to push through with the proposed delay as most retirees rely on their pensions as their main source of funds for their everyday expenses.
“The SSS leadership has been proposing a delay in the second round of pension hike and an increase in contribution without considering how it would affect its members,” Tinio said.
Instead of making alibis to impose contribution hikes and delay in the increase in pension for the pensioners, Castro said the SSS leadership must first focus on improving collection efficiency, collect contributions from delinquent employers, and decrease the huge bonuses and perks of its board members instead of pushing for contribution hikes and delaying pension increases,” Castro, for his part, said.
“The SSS should run after delinquent employers and non-compliant companies who owe it and SSS members billions in uncollected premiums as well as in liabilities for non-remittance, non-registration, and underreporting.
“Most pensioners often still contribute in their family income with their SSS pensions. The Duterte administration should listen to the people’s cries before allowing delays in the pension hike,” Tinio said. “They are depriving pensioners their hard earned benefits for another year if this proposal is approved.”