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'DECEPTION' | Urban poor blast plan to raise premiums to fund SSS pension hike

A pensioner joins a picket for increased pensions at the SSS. ( file by Ana Relova)
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- While it welcomed the P1,000 increase in the pensions of Social Security System members that President Rodrigo Duterte approved, an activist urban poor organization blasted Wednesday plans to fund this by raising members’ contributions by May.

“It is possible to give an unconditional increase in the pension of senior citizens … without increasing the monthly contributions as well,” said Gloria Arellano of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay.

Arellano said in its desire to satisfy both “the pensioners and the bureaucrats,” the administration “would take away from the rights and just claims of the people. The contribution increase cancels out what could be a huge portion of the pension increase.”

Para bang humugot ang gobyerno sa kanang bulsa niya at inilagay din sa kaliwa ang pera (It is like government took money from its right pocket and put it in the left),” Arellano said, calling the pension increase “a deceptive way to gain public trust.”

The government intends to increase SSS members’ contributions from 11 percent to 12.5 percent -- or from P15 to P740 a month -- by May to fund the pension increase.

Kadamay said the SSS can “increase the pension without increasing collection as well,” noting that the agency could utilize some P13 billion in uncollected contributions and P428 in reserve funds instead.

To raise contributions to fund the pension hike “satisfies a portion of the population yet still maintains the large revenue and profits it accumulates from the people themselves. Instead of improving the mechanisms for collection and utilizing the billions it has in reserves, the administration and the SSS want the burden to be put on ordinary Filipinos once more,” Arellano said.

She said this was no different from the “supposed ‘free education’ afforded to the youth” in which “improvements in services are implemented so that people themselves are shouldering the cost. This reeks of neo-liberal strategies in which profits and savings are derived from bludgeoning the people with the cost of services instead of helping them.”