Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Pensioner vents ire on SSS

May 1, 2021, 6:28 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

The Social Security System has not changed a bit from such an ingrained nonchalance and utter disregard for the well-being of the working class.

A broadcaster friend of mine sent me a letter regarding her friend’s frustration over the Social Security System’s nonchalance and continued inaction over his claims for retirement pension, which he said has applied for and been denied him since February 2020.

“It is frustrating that you are not responding to our inquiries and if this is the case it’s useless to make contributions to the SSS,” the exasperated email from the pensioner who is now based in Canada.

He emailed his letter to his classmate, my broadcaster friend, Lolly Acosta, who furnished me a copy.

“I am desperate to have someone in SSS listen and act on my case. The objective of this letter is to ask for an action that has been denied me for more than a year now regarding my SSS retirement pension which had not been deposited by SSS to my bank (CTBC) since February 2020,” he said.

This, despite his compliance with their requirement for an annual Confirmation of Pensioner (ACOP), which he had been sending via email to SSS (ofw.relations@sss.gov.ph) but to no avail.

“I have not received any response that would indicate that my file is being looked at or resolved,” he lamented.

The SSS, he added, could not be contacted except via such email address. He said he is wondering what is holding up his pension for more than a year now.

He gave out the details of his SSS filing such as he was given a ticket number regarding his email inquiry about the non-remittance of his pension, for which he never got a response.

Last December 28, 2020, he held a video conference (via Microsoft Teams) just to make SSS know that he had fully complied and submitted all the ACOP requirements. The video conference was facilitated by a Priscilla Fabros of SSS, who confirmed that his pension should continue following such compliance.

It was also attended by a Jonathan Alonzo, a member service representative (OFW Contact Services Section) who sent via email ACOP video conferencing guidelines using Teams last November 20, 2020 and again by Trixia Norma Buraga, a member representative who emailed him on January 20, 2020 who confirmed that he had fully complied with the requirements since 2019 and that his pension was recommended for continuance.

But no deposit has ever been made by SSS even after such notification of full compliance by Buraga, for which an automatically- generated verification ticket was issued on April 9, 2021 that attests to his persistent follow-ups in communication.

He said he tried to connect with SSS via Facebook since 2020, but received no response.

“Such inefficiency and continued inactions are questionable. I have worked hard for my retirement pension and any delay should not be tolerated.” He thanked the broadcaster for her untiring service to OFWs like him.

The latest development is that after their perseverance in following up the pension, SSS sent on April 30 an email indicating “some process error on their part resulting to failures to disburse the pension for more than a year.”

SSS promised to contact him again once the disbursing process is on the way to rectify the situation.

Again, we expect that these words from SSS will remain (an) empty (promise) until reaction is done towards full and prompt resolution. It remains to be seen how long a wait we are again (going) to endure.

The disturbing and stressful part is that it took us several months before we were heard by SSS. We had to beg and plea for someone in SSS to respond to our questions in our email.”

Common lament

Such complaints are not new to me.

Every so often I read about such injustices—through non-release or delayed release of hard-earned pensions to the retirees and delayed, if not total denial, of bonuses and other added compensations due them, especially those in their senior years who expect such payments that they have dutifully complied with during the years they were at work on in active practice of their professions.

Not that I am nitpicking with the SSS leadership for being less efficient and service-oriented because it is headed by a president’s fellow San Beda alumnus, Emmanuel Dooc, president/CEO of SSS and vice chairman of Social Security Commission.

But more because since my working days as a mainstream media practitioner, SSS has not changed a bit from such an ingrained nonchalance and utter disregard for the well-being of the working class.

It is more concerned about heftily compensating its board (with million pesos a month salary and allowances and fat bonuses amidst active and retired members wallowing in low wages to sustain themselves and their families, particularly during a pandemic).

The board is also more concerned about using pension funds to invest in high-risk investments supposedly so that its actuarial life can be strengthened.

In 2017, a columnist wrote about the alleged conflict of interest and insider trading among investment operations officers, managing collections and investing the almost P500-billion assets of SSS.

Must controversy and reported anomalies continue to gnaw at the trust and confidence of the Filipino private workers in their institutional provider for life-in-retirement?

Internal investigation showed that SSS commissioner Jose Gabriel Laviña filed an administrative complaint against four officials for allegedly trading stocks using “insider information” acquired from an SSS-accredited stockbroker or buying shares of stock for themselves (conflict of interest) upon the advice of a stockbroker hired by the SSS.

President/CEO Emmanuel Dooc said the officials failed to inform the SSS of planned initial public offering (IPO) of companies, which could have served as potential revenue sources for the state fund.

“There was some lost opportunity to the SSS,” Dooc said.

Social Security Commission (SSC) Chairman Amado Valdez said the allegations indeed suggest conflict of interest, which the SSS would not tolerate.

He, however, gave assurance that money from the state fund was not used in the questionable stock trading transactions.

If accusations are proven, the parties involved are guilty of high crimes of sabotage and treason, as trustees for about 35 million members who are employees in the private sector.

But then again, nobody was ever convicted of insider trading and conflict of interest here in the Philippines, a concerned SSS pensioner (high-profile in his time) reminded on what he called the “smokescreen-issue” of lower-level executive dishonesty at SSS, and we might agree, the columnist wrote.

The SSS is mandated to ensure the viability of the SSS retirement plan itself, and the continuity of monthly payments to retirees who, in their young, working years have contributed jointly with their employers to help insure continued social and economic wellbeing in their retirement years.

I share the columnist’s view that SSS benefits have been “politicized” as dole-outs at the personal beneficence of those in power.

This culture seems to have been heightened especially more since the last national elections, when many a candidate, presidential or senatorial (or even lower) boasted promises of increasing SSS retirement benefits when they were elected.

Collection efficiency of SSS (at 88 percent) is not the problem, Prof. JC Punongbayan of the UP College of Economics showed in his analysis of the SSS retirement benefits increase cum contributions increase.

But Duterte’s economic managers refused to increase the pension as this would erode the lifespan of the reserve fund. In approving the P1,000 pension increase, the SSS also had to increase the monthly contributions of active members.

I agree that SSS would have fewer problems if leaders to the top do not themselves have conflict of interest between what is good for the country and what is good for them.

“Both SSS and the national government have blundered on this pension increase vs. contribution increase,’ the columnist wrote.

Tags: #commentary, #BareTruth, #SocialSecuritySystem

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