MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/21 January) — One who swears he/she wears nothing under his or her clothes need not do the indignity of stripping in public to prove it. Yet this is precisely what President Benigno S. Aquino III did in justifying his veto of the bill giving an additional pension of P2000 to retirees enrolled under the Social Security System.
Aquino claimed the SSS would go bankrupt if the increase materialized. To add insult to injury, he reasoned that the pension for retirees comes from the agency’s investments not from the members’ contributions. The sheer stupidity of this statement is that it implies that the SSS has not been using the contributions in its investments of whatever nature.
Let’s forget the figures for a while and recall the reason why the SSS is there in the first place. This office exists to provide retired workers from the private sector and the self-employed individuals what the first two letters of its name says — social security. And, in case Aquino and his officials forgot — it simply manages the money of its members and returns it to them in the form of monthly pension and other benefits. In short, the money doesn’t belong to government.
This leads us to the question why SSS officials see nothing wrong in giving themselves fat bonuses and other perks but shirk at the thought of giving members better terms for their money. Maybe they see nothing wrong in enriching themselves with money entrusted to them by workers who get measly salaries but deem it unreasonable to heed the clamor of the real owners of that money.
The only good thing that has come out of Aquino’s miscue is that the SSS was forced to admit its dismal collection efficiency of 37 percent. The public finally got to see that it wears nothing beneath those pearly robes. This must be the justification for those hefty bonuses. Leaves us wondering how much they would reward themselves had the collection rate been higher.
Now, here’s another irony and example of this administration’s warped sense of priority: Aquino spurns the idea of increasing SSS pensions but pushes the envelope for the conditional cash transfer program the fund for which comes from foreign creditors, another burden for taxpayers.
So which is foolish, obtaining loans for a dole-out program which only reinforces dependency or improving the lot of retirees whose toil has contributed to the creation of wealth? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)