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Looking forward to the 17th Congress

A FINAL effort to override President Aquino’s veto of the P2,000 Social Security Pension bill failed on the last day of the Sixteenth Congress Monday night. The chamber, on a voice vote, turned down a resolution filed by partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares for it to overturn the veto. House leaders then rejected a call for a nominal vote, saying it would be an exercise in futility, as the Senate had already adjourned.

It may be recalled that the bill increasing the pension of retired SSS members was approved overwhelmingly by the House, only to be vetoed by President Aquino who said it would bankrupt the SSS. It became an election issue, as opposition quarters said the veto showed the administration’s low concern for ordinary folk like old SSS pensioners.

In contrast, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte committed to support the bill in the next Congress. He said the government should show greater concern for retired government and private-sector workers. Their current monthly pensions are not even enough for their medical bills, he said. Possibly because of this show of concern for ordinary people, along with his promise of change, Duterte went on to win the presidential election.

The SSS pension bill will be refiled in the Seventeenth Congress which will convene next month, with a coalition of congressmen supporting President-elect Duterte’s program of government in control of the new House of Representatives. The P2,000 SSS pension bill should again be easily approved, this time with no danger of its being vetoed.

The new Senate is similarly confident that the SSS pension bill will easily win approval, along with an income tax reform bill. The Aquino administration had also rejected the tax reform proposal in the Senate, but incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has agreed to support the bill.

We look forward to big changes in the Seventeenth Congress, and these two bills – the SSS pension bill and the tax reform bill – should be among the very first measures to be approved. They would highlight the change that the nation voted for in the last election.

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