By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region (BicolToday.com) – After overcoming opposition from the Social Security System (SSS) leadership which had rejected pension increase among SSS members, the SSS pension hike bill is now at the hands of President Aquino for signing into law, Bayan Muna Neri Colmenares informed online news, BicolToday.com.
Once signed into law, pensioners will get P2,000. across-the-board increase.
The pension hike bill, while under committee level deliberation in Congress, had been opposed by SSS leadership, claiming such pension increase will force SSS into ‘bankruptcy’.
Such SSS opposition did not convince pension hike proponents Bayan Muna partylist representatives Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate.
Buck ends in Malacanang
Bayan Muna lawmakers Colmenares and Zarate on Friday urged President Aquino to the sign into law House Bill 5842 providing for the P2,000 across-the-board increase on SSS pension.
“House Bill 5842 was passed on third reading by the House as early as June 9, 2015, and was passed en toto by the Senate on November 9, 2015,” Colmenares informed BicolToday.com.
It was transmitted to Malacanang for the President’s signature in mid-December.
“An increase in the SSS pension is long overdue, and, we strongly urge President Aquino to sign the pension hike immediately. The very low minimum pension violates the mandate of the SSS of promoting social justice and providing meaningful protection for its members,” Rep. Colmenares said.
The original bill was first filed by Bayan Muna Reps. Colmenares and Teddy Casiño in the 15th Congress in 2011.
Bridging the ‘hunger gap’
“Today’s minimum pension of P1,000-1,200, or even the P2,400 for those who contributed for twenty years, is way below the mark of meeting the needs of our senior citizens. It is not enough to buy food, pay bills, or, buy the maintenance medicines that most of our seniors need,” Rep. Colmenares said.
Rep. Colmenares cited the findings of independent think-tank Ibon Foundation that said a member of a family of six in NCR needs at least P5,033 a month for its basic needs.
“This P2,000 increase in pension will, at least, lift up the income of our seniors nearer the mark. We cannot overemphasize enough how important this pension increase is to our seniors. It is a matter of survival for the 1,528,269 pensioners,” Rep. Colmenares added.
Pension hike bill uphill battles
Fellow Bayan Muna representative Carlos Zarate said that the pension hike bill had already surpassed many hurdles before reaching the Malacanang desk.
“Originally, we proposed a P5,000-pension increase believing that this amount is more appropriate considering today’s prices of commodities and the rising cost of basic utilities. Eventually, it got whittled down to P2,000 after congressional deliberations,” Zarate said.
Even with this slashed amount, the bill still squeezed through a needle’s eye before making it to the Senate,” Rep. Zarate said.
SSS leadership in opposition
The SSS itself seemed determined to block the bill from passing.
“The SSS leadership became a stumbling block, too, as it raised unfounded bankruptcy claims if the bill passes,” Rep. Zarate recalled.
According to him, SSS, obsessed to increase its fund life–which is already beyond 14 years–is trampling on its mandate to provide social justice and protection for its members. Yet, the people, particularly our senior citizens, cannot be deluded by their scare tactic of bankruptcy.
Rep. Zarate added “For the sake of our pensioners, we hope that the bill will pass its final hurdle.”
As 2016 starts, Pres. Aquino can certainly make a very good news for our senior citizens by finally setting his hand on HB 5842, Rep. Zarate hopes. [BicolToday.com]