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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Diokno: ‘Unfair’ to use taxpayers’ money to hike SSS pension

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Tuesday said it would be “unfair” to use the taxpayers’ money to subsidize the monthly pension of Social Security System (SSS) members.

“I don’t think it is fair to use the taxpayers’ money to subsidize the benefits of the pension members, the SSS members, right?” Diokno told reporters in a press briefing.

“It is – to me – unfair for us to call on everybody to give, to increase the pension of a few, okay? You know, our tax system is such that even the jobless, those who don’t have jobs, they pay taxes, value added tax, right? So why should you burden them to give benefits to a private pension system?” He added.

Diokno's statement came on the heels of former Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares' call for a government subsidy to raise the pension fund of the SSS.

Citing Sections 20 and 21 of the Social Security Act or Republic Act 8282, Colmenares said the government can subsidize funds to increase the pension of SSS members.

The President admitted in a recent interview that his economic managers were not keen on granting the P2,000 across-the-board increase in the SSS pension as the agency might face bankruptcy.

For Diokno, Duterte could instead adjust the contribution of SSS members to save the pension fund, amid the impending P2,000 pension hike.

“If there's any solution, I think they should find it within the system and what we are proposing is a contribution adjustment, a higher pay. But we are not recommending it right now. What we’re recommending is maybe do it after the tax reform,” the Budget Secretary said.

Last December, Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and National Economic and Development Authority director general Ernesto Pernia sent a memorandum to Duterte, calling for higher SSS member contributions.

In the memorandum, the three officials expressed concern that without an accompanying “upward adjustment or restructuring of the contribution rate,” the proposed pay hike would unduly jack up the unfunded liabilities of the SSS from P3.5 trillion to P5.9 trillion.

During the campaign for the May 9 national elections, Duterte vowed to grant the increased pension among SSS members, following the decision of former President Benigno Aquino III to veto the proposed measure allowing the pension hike.

Diokno, however, defended the President and stressed that he could not fulfill his campaign promise because it was only now when he realized that there was a deadlock on the proposal.

“Candidate Duterte is different from President Duterte...There are promises [that have to be broken]. When you have seen the data, you will realize that it could not be done. I’m just making a recommendation that historically, you don’t really do that. You don’t burden the taxpayers to support a private fund,” he said. (Sunnex)
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