“President Aquino unjustly denied our pensioners the much-needed although still meager pension hike approved by Congress while the SSS top executives are enjoying millions in salaries, perks, and bonuses.” – Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – As the Makabayan bloc of legislators in Congress rallies support to overturn Aquino’s veto of pension hike before congress adjourns next week, progressives welcome the positive statements on the said pension hike by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. His support continues to draw praises from progressive groups, and unflattering comparisons to outgoing President Aquino.
“This considerate act is a stark contrast to the cold-hearted Aquino administration that did not even heed the woeful plight of our seniors,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate in a statement. The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) noted the same thing.
“Duterte’s commitment to hike SSS pensions further emphasizes his difference from the heartless and anti-worker presidency of Noynoy Aquino,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.
The exiting Aquino administration has earned the ire of the country’s senior citizens when it vetoed the legislated pension hike in January last year, even as the said hike had undergone five years of deliberations in the current congress and the suggested amount had been brought down from P5,000 ($111) to P2,000 ($71).
Aquino “unjustly denied our pensioners the much-needed although still meager pension hike approved by Congress while the SSS top executives are enjoying millions in salaries, perks, and bonuses,” said Rep. Zarate.
From its yearly reports, SSS consistently has more funds that it is investing and disbursing. It has investments in various large companies and, as labor groups said, also in some of President Aquino’s PPPs or public-private partnership projects. SSS is profitable, and it is continuing the trend with increasing membership, increasing revenues generated from members’ contributions with hardly a corresponding increase (yet) in annual disbursements.
Overriding Aquino’s veto of pension hike
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who led the fight for the SSS P2,000 ($111) pension increase, urged President-elect Duterte to also throw his full support to the override resolution that they intend to file before the 16th Congress adjourns next week. Some 120 members of the House of Representatives have already signed the resolution seeking to overturn Aquino’s veto on the Congress-approved P2,000 ($111) pension hike. They need two-thirds of the majority, so they need at least 192 supportive legislators to trump the exiting president’s veto.
Workers from the KMU vow to continue speaking out and holding protests “until the first batch of increased pensions is received by pensioners demanding relief from hunger and poverty.”
Soluta of KMU countered the claims of Aquino “and his overpaid cronies in the SSS management” who rejected the hike with scary scenarios about the pension funds quickly running out and the SSS contributors being forced to raise premiums.
“We urge Duterte to look at proposals made by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and Rep. Neri Colmenares of progressive partylist group Bayan Muna for raising funds for the pension hike,” Soluta said.