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ROUGH CUTS | The ‘shout out’ is getting louder




WELL, it is a good thing that only one of the government-approved double whammy to add to the hardships that the Filipinos are suffering in the middle of the ongoing pandemic is pushing through.

Had the other one not temporarily been stopped by the President many of us would have our backs broken due to financial constraints.

We are referring to the legislated increases in the monthly contributions to the Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Health Insurance System or PhilHealth. The President somehow sympathizes with the call of many to defer the PhilHealth premium hike.

So only recently he came up with an appeal not to start collection under the new rate of 3.1 percent of the member’s monthly salary. But it is clear that the schedule of Philhealth premium collection as defined in the law that authorizes it will stay unless Congress will pass the corresponding law that will amend the same mandate allowing the hike.

In other words, Philhealth will proceed with the collection as scheduled starting this month if Congress fails to enact an amendment to RA 11223. Now let us wait if Philhealth would honor the President’s appeal while waiting for the Congressional action.

We are certain that any delay in the move of Congress to amend the law would be PhilHealth’s convenient excuse in proceeding with the collection of the new monthly premium rate. Meanwhile, over at SSS the agency seems to be in a festive atmosphere. There is no indication that the President is tinkering with the idea of stopping the implementation of the new monthly premium rate.

In other words, starting this month, the worker-members contribution to the System will now be 13 percent of his basic monthly pay. Even if the share of the member is only 4.5 percent of the premium and the remaining 8.5 percent is to be shouldered by the employer, still, the 4.5 is a huge chunk taken off the income of the member.

And to think that the SSS is looking at a maximum premium goal of 25 percent at the highest! Wow! Is it not kind of “confiscatory”? And how much pay hike employers usually give the employees? In companies with Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA), the most would be five percent staggered usually over five years.

As this is happening the SSS somehow continues to play deaf ears on the “shout out” of retirees to release the additional P1000 in their monthly pension benefit. The same is also a product of a law signed by the sitting President; one that was very welcome by the retirees who were dejected when a similar earlier Congress-approved bill was thumbed down by former President Noynoy Aquino.

We do not know if the President has forgotten about it. But when the first P1,000 was approved for release, the President made a commitment to have the second P1,000 released in 2019. But it’s been years since the law on the additional pension benefits was approved and the pension agency and the President himself appear to be oblivious about it.

Instead, the SSS is now bent on collecting a new premium rate in spite of the fact that most of its members are down to their knees economically due to the stoppage of work most of them because of the Corona Virus Disease (CoViD) now plaguing the entire world including the Philippines. For now, the President is not yet lifting a finger to stop the agency from proceeding with the collection.

Of course, we know the President is saddled with the gargantuan problems of governance. We can see it on his face. So we cannot fault him if there will be misses every now and then. But should not his many advisers be reminding him of things and other happenings that might have slipped from his mind?

Or, should we assume that none of his numerous advisers read or heard the pleas of retirees from the private sector and the active members themselves? Or, again, should we assume that keeping the President away from such issues is deliberately done by them (advisers) thinking that such problems will sap the Chief Executive’s wit out?

We’d like to call on the President’s most trusted man in Sen. Bong Go to tell him of the appeal of the retirees as well as of the employees affected by the SSS premium rate hike which for now is increasing in its decibel.
Senator, many Filipinos are looking up at you as their best and most reliable link to the President. Can you afford to fail their expectation? Can they count on you?

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