Clamor for SSS pension hike growing stronger

KMU called on pensioners and all workers and Filipinos to join the January 30 activity at the Quezon City Memorial Circle titled “Sama-Samang Sigaw” (Collective Outcry) which is expected to be the biggest gathering so far of those clamoring for a pension hike.

SIDEBAR STORY | Seniors speak out on veto of P2,000 pension hike

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The call for a P2,000 ($42.55) across-the-board hike in monthly pensions is getting louder as more people, young and old, are joining collective actions to advance it. In Congress, the Makabayan bloc composed of progressive partylist legislators has finalized its resolution expressing the sense to override President Benigno S. Aquino III’s veto of House Bill 5842 mandating a P2,000 across the board increase of Social Security System pension.

To be introduced by Bayan Muna Partylist Representative and Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, with support from other progressive partylist representatives and Minority Leader Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, the resolution states that “it is important for the House of Representatives to express its sense that the pension increase is justified, reasonable and feasible and should be passed into law so that it can immediately be enacted and implemented.”

On Thursday, January 28, several mass actions were held all over Manila and the country for the P2,000 ($42.55) pension hike. As groups of senior citizens themselves are coming out to invite fellow seniors to join or support the campaign, especially the scheduled mass action on January 30, various groups initiated a signature campaign calling for the said pension hike. In a picket protest before the SSS national headquarters in Quezon City, Anakpawis Partylist initiated the signature campaign to support the increase and the moves to override President Aquino’s veto rejecting the pension increase.

Meanwhile, the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) led several simultaneous pickets in offices of the Social Security System (SSS) across the country, with pensioners, senior citizens, and their families.

They held pickets in front of SSS offices in Quezon City, and in the cities of Baguio, Calamba, Legaspi, Iloilo, Kalibo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Davao cities. The KMU said it would not stop holding protests until the pension hike is implemented. A Bayan Muna chapter in Pasig also picketed the SSS Branch along Shaw Boulevard Pasig City.

Photo: Seniors for SSS pension hike
A senior protester in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig invites others to join and support the call for pension hike (Contributed Photo)

Calling their action “Kalampagin ang SSS” (barraging the SSS), the protestors called on senior citizens lining up for their pensions inside the SSS offices to join them as they banged empty pots and pans and shouted their call: “Pensyon sa SSS, dagdagan, dagdagan! Across-the-board, two thousand!”

The activities are part of a series of protest led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in response to the Aquino government’s veto of HB 5842 or the P2000 pension increase authored by Rep. Neri Colmenares in the House of Representatives.

Aquino’s ‘legacy of heartlessness’ scored

“Millions of SSS pensioners cannot live on a P1,200 ($25) monthly, it cannot even sustain their needs especially those with ailments. Aquino’s veto not only was a slap in the face of our pensioners but also those lawmakers who, for five years, painstakingly fought for the bill to be enacted,” said Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap.

In launching a signature drive, Hicap said, they hope to convince fellow lawmakers to sign the Makabayan bloc’s resolution seeking to override Aquino’s veto, “to reconsider the bill for approval as a form of economic relief and social justice for the millions of pensioners and their dependents, and to make appropriate measures to reform, subsidize and strengthen SSS.”

Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson, said “No amount of silence from Aquino and no amount of lies from his publicists would stop the clamor for a P2,000 ($42.55) pension hike. Those in favor of the pension hike are getting angrier and eager to join protests and other activities to speak out.”

The labor leader said many of those who have been following the issue were not convinced with Aquino’s excuse that the SSS would go bankrupt if the pension hike is approved.

“Many of those who have an interest in this issue know that the SSS has the funds for the pension hike, that the SSS can and must do a lot of things to extend its fund life, and that the government can even subsidize the pension hike. There’s no way Aquino can convince pensioners and their supporters to give up,” Soluta explained.

The Makabayan bloc’s resolution described the current pension as inhumane, because “it cannot in any way sustain life for pensioners and should have necessitated government intervention many years ago.”

They expect the increase in pension to be mainly spent on maintenance medicine, food and other necessities which, they said, will not just help the pensioners but also ease the burden on the national and local health system and help spur local business and economy.

“It is a social justice legislation that at the same time redounds to the benefit, not only of the poor families of pensioners but of the local and national government as well,” read the Makabayan bloc’s resolution.

The proposed pension hike has clear and sure sources of funds, based on the five-year discussions and hearings in Congress. “While SSS insisted that the funds must be sourced from increased contributions, Congress, on the other hand, insisted that the funds must first be sourced from increasing collection efficiency, and cutting back on unnecessary expenses of SSS, which uses more than 6 percent to 9 percent of its contribution fund, higher than social security operating expenses in other Asian countries,” the resolution further stated.

KMU called on pensioners and all workers and Filipinos to join the January 30 activity at the Quezon City Memorial Circle titled “Sama-Samang Sigaw” (Collective Outcry) which is expected to be the biggest gathering so far of those clamoring for a pension hike. ()

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