We have heard Mayor Rodrigo Duterte threaten, in several occasions, that if he is elected president, he would abolish the Social Security System because of its inefficiency, uselessness, and corruption.
Many of us pensioners have taken his threat seriously. After all, wasn’t he “The Punisher” that Time Magazine featured in its July 1, 2002 Asia edition?
Besides, SSS has lately acquired a bad reputation. While its board members award themselves millions of undeserved bonuses, they refuse to grant pensioners a single centavo of pension increase. They just leave members to suffer in long lines when they file their applications for benefits and loans.
But having SSS is better than nothing. We don’t want it abolished.
We thus heaved a big sigh of relief when Mayor Digong declared, during a campaign sortie in Dagupan City last March 3, that he would just merge SSS with the Government Service Insurance System.
Describing the two agencies’ separate operations as “deficient” and “not working well,” he has realized that a merged institution would serve better all Filipinos whether they work in the private or public sector.
Gullible people, we love to hear all presidential candidates promise us anything sweet, especially the moon and the stars.
And for us poor pensioners, nothing could be more enticing than the promise of a generous increase in our social protection benefits—PhilHealth hospitalization benefits, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4 Ps, social pensions for indigent senior citizens, and pensions for retired, disabled, and deceased SSS members.
We then commit to vote for the one who promises us the most.
We don’t question anymore our chosen candidate’s ability to deliver on his or her promises, always assuming that his or her sincerity is enough, especially if he or she is the son or daughter of someone we used to love and respect.
The more perceptive among us doubted PNoy’s ability to lead us—and even his sanity—but most of us set our doubts aside.
In fact, it was us who pushed PNoy to run in 2010.
We carelessly took for granted his sincerity to lead us and didn’t require from him proven ability. After all, he was the solo son of then recently deceased President Cory whom her loyal followers now consider a saint.
He was even intimidated by his more accomplished and talented rivals—former President Erap Estrada, Senate President Manny Villar, and Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro.
Thus, he avoided engaging them in public debates about national issues that plagued the country then.
The list of PNoy’s failed performances is now long—hostage-taking debacle that killed eight of 20 Hong Kong tourists at Luneta while he and his cabinet members ate supper in a nearby Chinese restaurant; billions of pesos of Disbursement Acceleration Program funds that were illegally released through Janet Napoles by his government budget officers; massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandoes at Mamasapano; and many others.
At this very moment, PNoy still has to convince the international community that his administration is not maintaining a useless and “just for show” anti-money laundering system. He still has to resolve —and return, at the least—that $81-million Bangladesh Central Bank’s money, hacked and laundered through our local banking system and recently opened casinos.
Believing that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, we consequently erred when we elected Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.
PNoy has failed to give us pensioners anything.
PNoy must have taken seriously his economic propagandists’ usual big joke that his administration has kept inflation at zero with prices of basic goods and services not moving up a single centavo.
Thus, despite the clamor for increases, he never adjusted pensions except for that lone five percent SSS pension increase in 2014.
The 4Ps cash payments got stuck at P500 per family and P300 per child; the social pension remained at P500; and SSS pensions stagnated at an average of P3,200 and minimum of P1,200.
Worse, after Congress approved a P2,000-increase in SSS pensions, PNoy vetoed it fearing that the increase would bankrupt the program by year 2029.
Didn’t he know that the Social Security Law mandates SSS to “provide for feasible increases in benefits every four years?”
He probably didn’t know that the P500 initial amount of social pension was set way back on Feb. 15, 2010 when the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” was approved into law by President Gloria. As usual, he could blame Congress for its failure to review the social pension every two years.
All presidential candidates have promised to increase our social protection benefits, except for Secretary Mar Roxas who is adopting the “no money, no pension increases” policy of PNoy’s Daang Matuwid administration.
As in past elections, no one is laying out his or her plan on how those promises would be delivered.
Only Mayor Digong is providing a structural reform that would improve our pension system.
Sticking out his neck, he is championing what has been long repeatedly proposed, studied and recommended by local and international pension experts since the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos—the merger of SSS and GSIS.