The KMU cited the Commission on Audit’s 2012 report which states that “Slow processing and payment of death, disability and retirement claims did not meet the commitment of SSS of providing prompt, convenient and meaningful social protection service to the members and their beneficiaries.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — What good performance are you talking about? Workers from the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno lambasted the leadership of the Social Security System (SSS) today for its “greed” and utter “insensitivity.” In a picket this morning, October 10, in front of the SSS head office in East Avenue, Quezon City, workers demanded the immediate return of the P10-million ($230 thousand) bonus pocketed by the agency’s executives to the members’ fund, saying that there is absolutely no reason for the bonuses.
The SSS management approved this month a 0.6-percent increase in private sector workers’ monthly contribution to the fund, despite the stiff opposition of workers and unanswered doubts over the supposed justifications for the increase. Yet, it was revealed recently that the SSS officials have been helping themselves to “fat bonuses” and generous allowances from the workers’ funds.
KMU said in a statement that as far as SSS members are concerned, the agency did not perform well. The KMU cited the Commission on Audit’s 2012 report which states that “Slow processing and payment of death, disability and retirement claims did not meet the commitment of SSS of providing prompt, convenient and meaningful social protection service to the members and their beneficiaries.”
In various picket protests held in front of the headquarters of the SSS in Quezon City, the leaders of KMU and Piston and some retirees who watched and then joined the picket spontaneously have recounted various instances showing the snail-paced processing of services that have also never improved much over the years.
The KMU also pointed to “various inefficiencies, or perhaps corruption,” of the officials of SSS, as the years-long problem of non-payment of premium contributions by some employers continue to plague its record books, even if workers say their employers religiously deduct SSS payments from their monthly pay.
The SSS has failed, as presented in a COA report, to take legal steps in order to collect P367 million ($8.475 million) in unpaid premiums from employers, including 139 delinquent large-account employers.
And now, amid growing protests over the misuse of public funds through the pork barrel system by the country’s top officials including the President, workers and other sectors including the urban poor expressed indignation as their persistent questions about how the SSS management has been spending the workers’ funds finally started to get answers.
The Aquino government-appointed SSS officials have awarded themselves bonuses amounting to P10 million ($230 thousand) in 2012 alone.
The decision to grant so-called “performance bonuses” for 2012 was made by the commissioners of the SSS. They received the following bonuses: Juan Santos, chairman, P1.17 million ($27,114); Emilio de Quiros Jr., SSS president and SSS vice chairman, P1.04 million ($24,102); Diana Pardo-Aguilar, P1.33 million ($30,823); Daniel Edralin, P1.12 million ($25,956), Eliza Antonino, P968,000 ($22,433); Marianita Mendoza, P1.02 million ($23,638); Ibarra Malonzo, P1.41 million ($32,677); and Bienvenido Laguesma, P1.30 million ($30,127).
Aside from the 2012 year-end bonus, SSS officials also receive P80,000 ($1,854) a month for attending two meetings and additional P20,000 ($464) for every committee meeting they attend.
“Performance is more than attendance at meetings, and if the SSS fund has become so precarious (as Aquino has alleged), on what basis have performance bonuses to directors been justified? There are still outstanding issues in relation to the SSS that have not been addressed, such as the legitimacy of previous bonuses that previous directors have gifted to themselves, and the finding of the Commission on Audit last year that in 2011 alone the SSS had overcharged borrowers by more than Php788 million ($18.3 million). Time and again the SSS coffers were misused at great expense to the backbone of our industry – the workers,” said the most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana and Rev. Rex RB Reyes of National Council of Churches of the Philippines.
In another statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines said that “The granting of fat bonuses and compensation to Aquino’s appointees to the SSS, clearly show the hypocrisy of the Aquino regime’s so-called ‘daang-matwid’.”
Among the SSS executives who received more than a million pesos as bonus are labor leaders who reportedly tend to question the likes of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) when the latter are leading workers to protest the SSS premium hike and the meager wage hikes being granted by regional wage boards.
“It’s very difficult for workers to believe that these SSS executives are doing their job well when benefits, meager as they already are, are being released late. Good performance in this case must be measured by improvements in members’ condition, not in mere increases in the workers’ fund which the SSS leadership can use in ways that won’t benefit members,” Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairman, said.
An increase in the SSS fund also does not by itself constitute improved performance, the KMU added, explaining that it does not immediately translate into better benefits for members because SSS officials can allocate the funds for other purposes.
A study of the non-government Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research shows that the SSS’s P350 billion (more than $8 billion) investment reserve fund could be allocated to big capitalists’ business ventures, while 20 per cent or P70 billion ($1.62 billion) of the said fund is invested in equities in the stock market.
The reserve fund of P350 billion (more than $8 billion) is under the discretion and control of the officials appointed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to the SSS. Reports showed that over the past three years alone, the SSS has increased its equity investments in big companies as Philex Mining Corp., Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., First Holdings Corp., Manila Electric Co. and Union Bank.” Some of these companies are controlled by tycoons who have also reportedly contributed in the campaign funds of Aquino’s group in past elections, as well as actively bidding now for Aquino’s PPP projects.
As much as 30 percent of the P105 billion ($2.43 billion) in pension funds are also reportedly being risked or gambled in the stock market.
“By investing the money of the SSS members in these corporations, these corrupt SSS officials are made to sit as board members and can also receive compensation in these companies,” said the CPP in a statement sent to media. The revolutionary group echoed the workers complaints that there is no clear accounting and reporting of the numerous investments being made by the SSS.
“While in power, the Aquino regime is bound to reveal itself more and more to be not much different from the previous Arroyo regime and other past regimes in terms of rottenness and corruption,” the CPP concluded.
During the KMU picket in front of SSS headquarters today, they dared the management of SSS to resign, citing one of the excuses mentioned by its chief executive for the “fat bonuses” and per diem.
“If De Quiros and SSS executive board want to get bigger compensation, they should resign and go to the private sector where they belong,” Labog said. He added that officials of GOCCs, especially the SSS, should be motivated by the spirit of public service, not of greed.