By Nico Alconaba
Philippine Daily Inquirer
If there’s a will, there’s a way.
This, in essence, was how Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, now a presidential candidate, described how he would handle the controversy over a proposal, passed by Congress but vetoed by President Aquino, to increase Social Security System (SSS) pension by a measly P2,000 a month.
Duterte took a position contrary to that of Mr. Aquino, who said SSS funds would be drained if the pension increase was allowed to proceed.
Duterte said he would take two approaches to the problem—allow the pension increase and raise funds for SSS.
He said he recognized the need to raise pension
because most pensioners are now elderly who need regular maintenance medicines that are expensive.
The Senate and House of Representatives passed on third reading and sent to the President’s office for signing House Bill No. 5842 that would increase monthly SSS pensions by P2,000.
Duterte said he would have done the opposite of what Mr. Aquino did.
“Most of the pensioners are already old,” said Duterte, who is 70 years old. “Nowadays, the prices of medicines are going up. Most pensioners have hypertension, diabetes or abdominal illnesses,” he said.
At the same time, Duterte said, he would make sure SSS does not go bankrupt as Mr. Aquino had said it would if the pensions were raised.
“Something has to make up for it (increase in pension),” said the mayor.
He said if he were President, he would “ask my men to look for a corrective measure somewhere.”
“It could be another debt, because it has to be public, or it could be an increase in the remittances,” he said.
Makabayan Rep. Neri Colmenares, who filed the bill at the House, condemned the President’s veto.
“The main reason why President Aquino vetoed the bill is now clear,” Colmenares said in a statement.
“He just does not want to allocate funds for SSS.
The SSS fund life argument has been raised many times during the hearings and we have studied their arguments including their report that they will have a deficit of P4 billion if the pension is increased by P2,000,” he said.
He said throughout the hearings, SSS had been told to increase collection and remove unnecessary expenses and, if these are still insufficient to raise funds, ask the government to allocate funds.
“P4 billion is peanuts in a P3-trillion budget,” Colmenares said. (Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao)
(Photo credit: Pensioners and workers marched to Mendiola to assert their demand for a P2,000 SSS pension hike. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ)