Aquino on pension hike veto: Better to be heartless now than careless later
President Benigno Aquino III reiterated on Friday his reasons for turning down a bill providing for an increase in pensions of Social Security System (SSS) members.
Aquino, during an event in Bulacan, said it was unfair to grant the increase at the expense of the other SSS members.
“While 2.15 million (members) will be delighted, the other 30 million will be at risk. Is that right? Are watching over this fund appropriately?” he said during an ambush interview broadcast over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
He said that was the reason he decided to veto the proposed measure.
“I believe, as the father of the nation, you shouldn’t look only at what is needed now. You also have to plan for the needs of the country in the coming years,” he said.
“So I am heartless now but in 2027, when the SSS becomes bankrupt (and is not able to pay for the pension of) more than 30 million members, they will call me careless and heartless at the same time,” Aquino pointed out.
He said there were still other mechanisms that gave benefits to Filipinos, such as PhilHealth.
Not a whim
Aquino admitted that Congress could overturn his veto with a two-thirds vote. But “this is not a whim (kapritso),” he insisted, adding it was studied carefully and anyone managing the government would take such things into consideration.
Aquino has been receiving flak for vetoing the bill, which is due to lapse into law in a few days.
The proposed measure, House Bill No. 5842, provides for P2,000 across-the-board increase in the SSS monthly pension.
The President discussed the factors considered, including the current income generated by SSS and the current economic and financial situation affecting the agency’s holdings.
“If we say yes to the increase in pension, and we already looked at the actuarial studies, the SSS will survive for only 11 years before it becomes bankrupt,” he said.
Where would we get the pension for those retiring in 2028 and 2029, he asked.
He pointed out that the SSS had an obligation to invest its funds to raise enough money for pensions and benefits.
He said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima estimated that it would take 120 years for SSS to earn the needed funds for the increase in pension.
Aquino said he was not affected by critics saying his allies would lose votes in the coming elections.
“There are those asking (about the repercussions) on the elections, of negative votes. I think it’s worse to earn the ire of the 30 million other SSS members than that of the two million pensioners,” he said.
“I can improve my image by approving the bill to help allies who have received my endorsement. After all, by 2027 the public might have already forgotten about me, so I won’t be blamed. They will only blame the incumbent administration. But is it right to put the people in harm’s way?”
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