SSS chief: No basis for second tranche of pension hike for seniors
MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Social Security System (SSS) on Monday said there was no basis to implement the sought-after second tranche of the approved pension increase for its elderly members.
“Right now, we have no basis for the implementation of the P1,000 [second tranche]. The actuarial study does not permit it, especially now,” SSS President Aurora Ignacio told the House public accounts committee during Monday’s hearing on the agency’s finances.
The hearing was conducted following the passage of a House bill that would give President Rodrigo Duterte the power to suspend an increase in SSS contributions this year.
Ignacio cited a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea — in line with Duterte’s directive in 2017 — which she said made “no mention of two tranches of P1,000 and P1,000.”
“But we are not saying that we are turning back on any commitment because there was no commitment at that time,” she said.
She added: “Categorically, the answer right now is, not yet. We don’t have any legal basis for doing that on the actuarial side.”
Ignacio was responding to a question by Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on whether the SSS would still implement the second tranche of the pension increase for senior citizens.
Several lawmakers have repeatedly called on the SSS to give the second tranche to provide additional relief to its retired members amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disputing Ignacio’s claim, Zarate cited a Feb. 22, 2017, memorandum from Malacañang which, he said, provided for a P2,000 pension increase in two tranches.
The first tranche was retroactively implemented in January of that year, he said, adding that SSS officials committed at that time to implement the second tranche not later than 2022.
Then SSS Chair Amado Valdez and then SSS President Emmanuel Dooc made the promise to lawmakers in past House hearings, he said.
Congress previously passed a bill that would increase SSS pensions for senior citizens, but President Benigno Aquino III vetoed it in 2016.
Zarate said lawmakers had agreed to a joint Senate-House resolution pushing for the P2,000 pension increase because of the commitment of SSS officials.
“When the Duterte administration came in, their first commitment is to implement the vetoed increase of [the] previous administration. Their request is that this be done in two tranches because they still have to implement reforms,” Zarate said.
“Their request in 2017 was to seek Congress’ help to amend their charter, and that they will give the vetoed increase of P2,000 but in two tranches,” he said. “But now it seems that they are turning back on that commitment.”
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