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Rough Cuts | Somebody must remind the President

One major act of President Rodrigo Duterte that we believe endeared him more to the people, especially the elderlies, was his move to influence Congress to reintroduce the bill granting additional P2,000 to the monthly pension of retirees from private employment. The Act that evolved from the bill passed by Congress during the second Aquino administration (President Benigno Simeon Aquino III,) did not become a law as it was vetoed outright by the latter.

The new bill of the same nature that was reintroduced in Congress during the first year of the Duterte administration eventually became a law as soon as it was submitted for his signature. It was met with jubilation by the millions of retirees even if the additional P2,000 to the monthly pension was to be given in tranches. For the aging retirees the first P1000 was reason enough to celebrate considering that the amount would be a big help to purchase their maintenance medicines. And the pensioners were profuse in their thanks to the President who was bold to risk depletion of the funds from the Social Security System (SSS) that administers the retirement benefits of private sector employees.

Thus we believe that the same populist move by the President may have contributed in a large way in creating the base for his high performance and trust ratings by the public. Yes, the President, after almost four years in office, has remained at the ‘Very Good” and ‘Excellent’ ratings every after the release of the administration’s performance surveys conducted by such prestigious opinion polling firms as the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia. And so far, not even the major controversies and issues that cropped up in the President’s four years in office like the allegations of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations, the President’s “soft” stand on the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese cutter, and the “And Tuto-ong Narco List” video attributed to the opposition, and recently the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, have inflicted a dent on the President’s acceptability to the Filipinos.

All of these however, should not lull the President into some kind of complacency. No one would ever know that one or some of the reasons why he’s got good grades in his leadership may also cause the possible dive of his performance and trust ratings.

And we are referring to the possibility of the President forgetting about his commitment to the SSS pensioners to have the second P1000 released within the remaining years of his administration.

We are afraid that with the seeming sidelining of any efforts to have the second tranche released sooner as expected by the pensioners, erosion of the people’s trust in the President would set in. Yes, let us not forget that the pensioners among the Filipinos still account for a good number of voters. Some of them may also be among the respondents in succeeding opinion polls that will be conducted to gauge the performance and trust levels on the President.

Hence, if the retirees will be kept waiting for some benefits that the administration has committed and seemingly put into the drain of oblivion, it is likely that many, if not all, of the pensioners will be withdrawing their trust on the President.

Besides, the SSS which oversees the retirees’ pension funds has already implemented the increase in workers’ monthly contribution to ensure that the money intended for pension will not be depleted earlier.

So, how come the additional P1000 in the monthly pension remains unreleased?

Perhaps, it is about time that those within the circle of the President, his advisers in various aspects of governance must endeavor to remind the chief executive of his commitment. For us it would be the most unfortunate thing to happen in the Duterte administration if the President will be unable to keep his promise to the retirees.

In a country like the Philippines where the elderlies still command influence in deciding on family affairs, the number of pensioner can still make or unmake a President.

Yes, under the constitution the current President is not anymore allowed to run for another term. But the developing mistrust definitely can be passed on to whoever is backed or endorsed by him in the 2022 local and national elections.

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