MANILA — Various youth groups protested in front of the Social Security System (SSS) main office in Quezon City on Jan. 5 after President Rodrigo Duterte said that he is still studying whether to approve the monthly pension of its members. This was contrary to his promise to give the increase, which he said during his campaign and after winning as president.
In December last year, the congressional committee on government enterprises and privatization approved Joint Resolution no. 10 of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which provides for the P2,000 ($40) increase in the monthly SSS pension. The resolution still needs to be passed by the House plenary.
Some members of the Cabinet, however, have blocked it saying the move will drive the agency to bankruptcy.
“Change has come, they say, and yet Duterte and his neoliberal-minded economic advisers are repeating exactly the same flawed justification made by former President Aquino to veto the SSS pension hike,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairperson.
Crisostomo referred to Cabinet members Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director Ernesto Pernia, who have opposed the pension hike using government funds, and instead proposed to increase the monthly contributions of members.
This was rejected by protesting youth groups, which echoed alternative proposal to improve the SSS collection rate of 35 to 38 percent, as well as to cut on “unjust bonuses” for SSS top executives.
“Like Aquino before them, Diokno, Dominguez, Pernia, and other Duterte spokesmen say that non-SSS pensioners will not benefit from the hike. This is an outright lie meant to scare and divide the public against a measure that would put the people’s money to good use for a social service,” said Crisostomo.
Bagong Alayansang Makabayan earlier released statement cautioning Duterte against what they call the “triumvirate” of Dominguez-Diokno-Pernia who also opposed the two-year ban on land use conversion.
“They now want to raise the excise tax on oil products. It seems that they are systematically trying to undermine whatever pro-people and progressive policy pronouncement Duterte has in his government,” said Bayan said in a statement.
Crisostomo said Duterte has reneged on many of its promises.
“Habang tumatagal sa poder, lumalabas na puro paasa lamang ang rehimeng Duterte (As it stays longers in power, the Duterte regime is turning out to be only full of empty promises),” said Crisostomo. He warned of bigger protests in the coming days against the Duterte administration’s “perpetuation of anti-people neoliberal policies.”
Photo grabbed from Kabataan Partylist Facebook page
Text by A. Umil