SSS pensions to rise by January 2017, says chairman

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2016 05:36 PM | Updated as of Nov 30 2016 10:47 PM

MANILA - Social Security System (SSS) pensions are set to increase by January next year, SSS Commission chairman Amado Valdez said Wednesday.

The state-led pension fund is set to formalize the implementation of the P1,000-increase in pensions effective January 2017, with another P1,000 increase to be implemented by 2022 at the latest, Valdez said.

In the past, Valdez said they had to stagger the increase because they needed to make sure SSS had enough funds by going after unutilized assets. There are pending bills in Congress to mandate the increase.

The Lower House approved its version at the committee level and will endorse it to the plenary before Christmas. 

"Sa SSS, approved na 'yung committee report. Nasa committee on rules ngayon, at anytime, pwede na isalang 'yun sa plenary," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said.

Zarate revealed SSS and House leaders met earlier this week about the proposed increase. 

The lawmaker, however, said the House was cold to the next tranche being implemented too far off. 

"I was in that meeting and ang initial reaction ni Speaker Alvarez, maghapag sila ng concrete proposal pero napakalayo ng 2022 at hindi acceptable 'yun," he said.

Zarate added that the impact the SSS proposal will have on the bill pending in Congress depends on the proposal.

Valdez, meanwhile, said Congress appears open to their proposal, explaining that their proposal for a joint resolution instead of a bill is grounded on constitutional concerns.

"The bill we have, I think they are open to come up with just a resolution to make it a law, it might be unconstitutional because wala namang appropriations coming from the public treasury to defray the cost," said Valdez.

Congress can only touch taxpayers' money, while the SSS is essentially pooled private funds, he added.

"If they will just rely on our own resources, they cannot appropriate funds. We're all together in granting the increase, iwasan na 'yung possible challenge on the constitutionality of the law. What will happen is 'yung commission will act in deference to the wishes of Congress, but it will be approved by the President as an executive order or approved by the commission as a resolution," said Valdez.

Zarate, however, said Congress is not allocating the funds and merely mandating the SSS to implement an additional increase. He said that as this stands, the increment is already paltry.

"Sabi namin, tuluy-tuloy pa rin kahit ma-approve 'yan, tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang pagsulong doon sa pension reform dahil talagang napakaliit na nadagdag kung mayroon man sa darating nitong mga araw," he said.

Valdez, however, said that at least there is now a guarantee that pensions will rise. 

Former President Benigno Aquino vetoed the same bill in the previous Congress, saying the SSS simply cannot afford the raise without any increase in contributions.