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IT was a choice between the stand taken by three economic managers in the cabinet and a group of secretaries concerned with more human needs and problems. President Duterte decided for the latter and thus approved a proposed increase in the pensions of old retired members of the Social Security System (SSS).
An increase of P1,000 will be given immediately this month – a long awaited blessing for many old workers who need help with their medical bills. After four years, or even earlier, as the SSS improves its finances through better management in collections and investments, another P1,000 will be given, SSS Chairman Amado Valdez and SSS President Emmanuel Dooc assured.
This will be one welcome January for so many retirees who, only a year ago, had gone through the same process of great expectations, only to be sorely disappointed when then President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the law increasing their pensions, claiming it would cause “dire financial consequences.” Candidate Duterte, even then, had seen the plight of the retirees, some of them had pensions as low as P2,500. If elected president, he said then, he would support a refiled SSS pension bill.
To help make up for the additional funding needed by SSS, the President directed SSS officials to crack down on employers who fail to remit the SSS contributions of their employees. He also ordered a stop to excessive allowances and honorariums the SSS pays some of its top officials.
It is said that some other government-owned or controlled corporations have similar liberal allowances and other remunerations for their officials. Now that he has started with the SSS, the President might want to carry out the cleansing process in these other government corporations.
The SSS officials must be commended for it is they who proposed the two-installment pension plan after they made a study of their own finances. They and the majority of Cabinet members who helped President Duterte make up his mind in favor of a pension increase – no matter how limited – are the kind of officials we hope to see more of in government.
We value the expertise of economists in government who look at the big picture of national finances, with eyes fixed on such statistics as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. But along with such statistical prosperity, we value a government that sees and understands common people’s needs and strives to meet them.