16th Congress fails SSS pensioners

THE LIBERAL PARTY-LED House of Representatives (HOR) again frustrated efforts to override President Benigno Aquino’s veto of the bill giving Php2,000 monthly increase to Social Security System (SSS) pensioners.

Only 189 representatives were present at the final regular session of the 16th Congress as of five o’clock yesterday afternoon, four short of the required 193 to vote on the measure.

Unanimously approved as House Bill 5842, or the SSS Pension Hike Bill, the HOR has since refused to vote for an overturn of President Benigno Aquino III’s unpopular veto of the measure last January 14.

This angered the elderly and workers who earlier held a public gathering near the HOR to express support for the bill.

Kilusang Mayo Uno Vice President for External and Political Affairs Lito Ustarez said that the increasing SSS membership and premiums, the corporation’s negligence in collecting remittances from employers, and the large salaries and million-peso bonuses its top executives are the real reasons behind Aquino veto.

Malaki ‘yong hindi nakukulekta ng SSS.  Umaabot ng halos Php35 billion ang ‘di nakokolekta. Maraming kompanya – lalong-lalo na ‘yong mga malalaking kompanya – na hindi nag-reremit ng SSS,”.Ustarez said. (There is a large amount not collected by SSS; there is approximately PhP35B that is still not collected. Many companies – especially large ones – do not remit to SSS.)

The SSS pension hike bill had passed all three readings in both the Senate and HOR before Aquino’s veto

Aquino said that his administration cannot support the bill because of alleged long-term “dire consequences” it would SSS’ finances.

SSS executives supported the veto, saying that SSS does not have enough money to fund a pension hike.

Still hopeful

Pensioners were hopeful the override vote would succeed yesterday following a defeat of the ruling Liberal Party in the last national and local elections.

“The congressmen who are now shifting their allegiance to Duterte should also uphold his pro-worker stand, including his position on the pension hike,” KMU executive vice chairperson Roger Soluta said.

Kung hindi magkakaroon ng pagkakataong maipasa ito sa 16th Congress, ire-refile po natin ito sa 17th Congress. Kami po ay naniniwala na pagdating ni incoming President na si Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, ay magkakaroon ito ng katuparan,” Ustarez added. (If it will not be passed here by the 16th Congress, we will re-file it at the 17th Congress. We believe that the pension hike will become a reality when incoming President Rodrigo Duterte is in power.)

Dapat ay mayroon pa rin tayong pagkilos na gagawin. Hindi tayo dapat umasa doon sa mga congressman at mga senador… Maaaring may mga maliliit na pagbabago pero kailangan pa ‘rin ‘yong malakas na tulak, malakas na puwersa ng mamamamayan,” Ustare said. (We still must take action. We should not rely on the congressmen and senators… There may be small changes but the power and support of the masses is still necessary.)

(Report by AL Ayroso / Photos by Amel Sabangan)