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Congress tries again with SSS pension bill

Retirees of the Social Security System and their families were looking forward to the signing of a bill increasing their monthly pension by P2,000 late last year, when then President President Benigno Aquino III unexpectedly announced in January that he was vetoing the bill. It will have “dire financial consequences,” he said; it would deplete the SSS Investment Reserve Fund by the year 2029.

President Aquino ignored the fact that under the Social Security Law, RA 8282, while SSS funds come from the contributions of private employers and employees, Congress is mandated to appropriate funds as needed, to assure that the SSS maintains its solvency and its benefits are not diminished. That presidential veto may have contributed a lot to the staggering loss suffered by the administration presidential candidate in the May election.

The new 17th Congress will now try again. Its House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization has now approved a consolidated measure granting a R2,000 SSS pension hike. The committee is headed by Rep Jesus Nonato Sacdalan of North Cotabato, one of the leaders in the super-majority now in control of the House of Representatives.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the principal authors of the bill, said he hopes the Senate will display the same level of enthusiasm in passing the measure in the Senate.

Of the total number of SSS retirees – some 1,774,000 in all – over 154,000 received adjustments in their pensions last June to correct errors made in the computation of their benefits in 1985-1989. For these adjustments, the SSS has released P7.21 billion.

For the rest of the system’s retirees – some 1.6 million – the R2,000 increase promised in the new bill is all they can look forward to. They will now be closely following its progress in Congress where it easily made its way the last time in 2015. Last June, President Duterte said in an interview in Davao City, that he would grant the P2,000 pension increase even without congressional action. There is, therefore, no danger of an approved SSS bill getting vetoed at the last moment as in 2015.

The pensioners are hoping that the bill will be enacted and signed into law early enough – perhaps by December. It has taken a change of administration and it has taken an entire year, but the R2,000 increase in their meager pension will be warmly and joyfully welcomed by the nation’s retirees this Christmas.