UNLESS PNoy was possessed by Santa Claus last night, the Christmas gifts that we have been wishing hard to receive—P2,000 pension increase for two million pensioners of the Social Security System and income tax cut for 15 million wage-earners—aren’t being delivered today.
Despite his bright boys’ boasting in international forums of our inclusive growth agenda, PNoy continues to stubbornly deny us these financial reprieves and ignores the nationwide clamor for them up to his last Christmas in Malacañang Palace.
Why? PNoy—the Scrooge of a president that we have—wants to hoard more cash in the pension institution and in our national treasury that he would brag about when he trumpets his achievements to us his bosses as he leaves the presidency on June 30, 2016.
In fact, these quid pro quo pension increase and income tax cut would perfectly fit in his administration’s inclusive growth agenda. All he has to do is support the legislative proposals that Congressman Neri Colmenares and Senator Sonny Angara have separately filed.
An income tax cut would immediately result in a higher net pay that a wage-earner could take home.
This would allow him to level up now his SSS contribution to that of his employer from 3.63 to 7.37 percent of pay and contribute based on his entire salary and beyond the present maximum cap of P16,000.
These additional contributions would shore up the Social Security Fund and enable SSS to increase its monthly pensions by P2,000.
Of course, the additional contributions should be matched with assurances that pensions would be much higher when the time comes to receive them and that future workers would also be made to contribute more if additional contributions would be necessary.
Assured that funds would be there waiting for pensioners in the future, everybody would have peace of mind now.
This inter-generational social contract is what our leaders should promote and implement in all our social security institutions as their unifying guiding principle.
Both our pensioners and income taxpayers have been longing for these gifts long before Christmas.
Pension amounts and income tax rates used to be set reasonably. But in the absence of adjustments that the upward movements of consumer price and wage indices necessitated, they have deteriorated in relative value.
Presently, SSS pensioners receive very low pensions while wage-earners pay income tax rates as high as 32 percent—second only to the 35 percent paid in Thailand and in Vietnam.
Our tax system is now outdated, and no longer equitable nor progressive. According to Senator Angara, our middle-income earners used to pay 25 percent in 1997 but now they pay the same 32-percent income tax rate of our billionaires.
As the term of PNoy’s “straight path” administration nears its end, we cannot avoid but take note of our railway transportation system that has similarly deteriorated.
After all, doesn’t a railway remind us of a straight path? No other road could be straighter than it in the sense that trains have no choice but to follow its tracks. Otherwise, they would be derailed.
Of course, an elevator moves along an almost-perfect straight path, but it only goes up and down.
Our roads throughout Metro Manila and in our major towns and cities have become bad roads—congested, chaotic and prone to traffic jams and flooding. They have become calvaries that we have to endure daily.
Yet the railway system that our forefathers handed to us was the kind that was safe, dependable, and affordable. It was a pioneering mode of transportation in Asia at the time it began operations on November 24, 1892.
It provided transportation throughout Luzon – from Tutuban in Manila to Albay in Bicol, Batangas in Southern Luzon, and La Union in Northern Luzon near the foot of Baguio City.
It was for us a source of national pride and joy. Now, it is but a limited commuter train system offering fewer trips, uncomfortable coaches, and dangerous railway tracks.
Forgotten now by the young generation is the fact that President Ferdinand Marcos constructed our light railway system over Rizal Avenue in 1981. He thus paved the way for the construction of similar elevated transportation systems in the country, which President Fidel Ramos did by adding the next line over Edsa in 1996.
Both lines still operate today but they are now only a shadow of their once-efficient state. They have become undependable and break down often. Neglected and lacking proper maintenance, they have been denied major renovation and modernization work.
They couldn’t cope up anymore with the increased demands for mass rapid transportation.
The Christmas gifts of a pension increase and an income tax cut could still be granted before June 30 next year by PNoy if he so decides to be a Santa Claus in Malacañang Palace.
But an efficient railway system could be delivered by the next president only after the first three years of his fresh mandate. To do this, he must be a caring and visionary leader, and—if necessary—foul-mouthed.