Lawmakers decry proposed SSS premium hike

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2018 06:01 PM | Updated as of Jan 31 2018 06:16 PM

Roque: The President is still studying the proposal

MANILA (UPDATE) - Several lawmakers on Wednesday hit the Social Security System's (SSS) proposal to raise members' contributions starting April, saying President Rodrigo Duterte should reject it as it would add to the burden of minimum wage earners. 

The pension fund had sought Duterte's approval to increase their members' premium to 14 percent from the present 11 percent to allow SSS to cushion the impact of last year's pension rate increase.

But Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said that while the proposal was meant to ensure the fund would last, "increasing the contribution should not be on the top of the list by the SSS management."

"There are pending issues that the SSS leadership should settle first which affects the actual performance of the SSS," he said in a statement.

Casilao, a member of the leftist Makabayan bloc, concurred with his fellow activist lawmaker from Bayan Muna that the SSS had failed to collect from employers who did not send their employees' contributions to the agency. 

Aside from persistent inefficient collection, Casilao said that other controversies continued to hound the SSS, including problems on stock investments and alleged excessive perks and bonuses of its high ranking officials and board members. 

"With these issues, all the more [that] the President should not approve such request of [a] contribution hike," the lawmaker said. 

The Anakpawis solon called on SSS members to oppose the proposed hike as majority of them are minimum wage earners whose salaries are not enough to provide for their basic needs. 

"Especially now that the new tax law was already implemented, which pushed prices of commodities, and [prices of] services [have] started to increase, the increase on SSS contribution should not be approved by the President," he said.

The Gabriela Women's Party also said plans to increase the SSS premium is ill-timed and baseless in the wake of stagnant collection rates and anticipated inflation due to the tax reform law. 

The group said that majority of those who would be greatly affected are low minimum wage earners and members without fixed income. 

"Minimum wage earners who are not affected by the supposed relief brought by TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) are now suffering from increase of prices in basic commodities and services. And now, this is salt to the wound that they have to suffer since whatever [is] left of their take home pay will be deducted by this premium increase," Gabriela said.

"SSS members should not suffer for the agencies' management inefficiency. [The] collection efficiency rate of SSS has been pegged at 40 percent to 50 percent only. Before pushing for [an] increase in premiums, the SSS management should first resolve this problem of inefficiency," it said. 

Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said the SSS management, while seeking the contribution increase, "forgot to mention the fat bonuses the management got despite the agency's ineptness to increase collection efficiency."

"We believe that the SSS management failed its mission and that the agency itself became the financial burden of its members especially those who are minimum wage earners who need them most," said Brosas.

"At the rate of how they manage the members' funds, the SSS Management should be ashamed of themselves," she said. 

ACT Teachers party-list Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro also slammed the proposed premium hike, saying that alongside TRAIN, it would be a double whammy for majority of its members. 

"The SSS leadership says that its members will be able to afford the additional contributions with the TRAIN, but that's not true. A large majority of its members get zero benefit and only huge disaster from TRAIN, as 75 percent of SSS members are minimum wage earners or poorer," said Tinio, citing an earlier estimate of SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Dooc.

"Those who earn minimum wage and below get nothing from TRAIN but they are the ones who get hit the hardest by the onslaught of price hikes in basic goods and services," Tinio said. 

"The SSS proposal for the contribution hike is a double whammy for the poor, so President Duterte should not even consider it." 

Castro said the proposed hike would "further keep the plates of our laborers empty.

"Contribution increase should not be the instant reaction of the SSS. Neither can they use TRAIN and the pension increase as their excuse," she said. 

"The SSS should first improve its collection efficiency and decrease the huge bonuses of its board members before proposing contribution hikes to its members. The SSS contribution hike at this time will leave the minimum wage earners with nothing for their daily expenses," she added.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque meanwhile said the proposal is still under study. 

"Hanggang 'di nag-issue ng EO (Executive Order) ang presidente eh pinag-iisapan pa rin at pinag-aaralan pa rin ito ng presidente (As an EO has not been issued, the President is still mulling over and studying the proposal)," he said in a statement.