CEBU

Atienza: P24 vs. P220

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HERE is Apple A. It’s P24 per piece. Here is Apple B. It’s P220 per piece.

You are surprised. Surely, you are not comparing apples and oranges.

Maybe they are of different varieties, you assume. One is from the USA and the other from China. Upon double-checking however, you see they are of the same variety and share the same country of origin. You weigh the apples in your hands. It even feels like Apple A is heavier than Apple B.

Now, imagine you need to buy 27,300 pieces of these apples. Apple A @ P24 per piece amounts to six hundred fifty thousand pesos (P655,200). Apple B @ P220 per piece will cost you six million pesos (P6,006,000).

Which apple would you buy?

If you are bewildered, and perhaps even offended, as to why I would pose such a simple arithmetical problem to you, I am doubly so—bewildered, that is—when I think over why the current Provincial Board even considered authorizing a life and accident insurance contract at P220 per person (and, with a private company to boot) when the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is offering a package at P24 per person for the same 27,300 non-regular government employees.

In terms of benefits, GSIS at P24 reportedly pays out P30,000 in case of death, P10,000 in burial assistance plus a P3,000 medical refund. The private company proposal at P220, in its original form, pays out a flat rate of P25,000 and nothing else.

While a contract may eventually turn out to be perfectly legal, one must seriously consider the victims of injustice in such an agreement.

The first victim is the employee himself who has to pay a bigger amount in premiums for his personal share. In case of his death, the grieving family members become victims as well. With GSIS, the family can claim a total of P43,000 while the private company gives only P25,000. Pardon the pun, but considering the cost of dying nowadays, a difference of P18,000 can be a lifesaver.

The second victim is the taxpayer of Cebu. Why needlessly pay out over P5 million when there is a better and cheaper alternative? Five million may seem a paltry amount in comparison to the billions of pesos being deliberated in a provincial budget, but surely, our tax money can be better spent addressing more pressing problems elsewhere. Garbage? Environment? Traffic?

The third victim of injustice is the National Government. Why should the Provincial Government put money into the coffers of a private company when it can be placed in a government corporation formed for the exact same purpose at a much lower cost? Since the government neither gives commissions nor pays out dividends to investors like a private company would, GSIS premiums are naturally cheaper and its benefits higher.

As our officials walk along the so-called “corridors of power” in the next few weeks, we exhort them to rethink and recognize that those hallways are in reality the “corridors of public service.”

When you step into those “corridors of public service,” please recall your responsibilities and promises to your constituents. Most especially to the poor, whose majority votes got you there in the first place.

More than five million pesos! Yet for me, the most significant numbers in this column are those that directly hurt the poor: 1) the difference between P24 and P220, of which the employee must give a personal share, 2) a payout difference of P5,000 in case of death and, 3) the essential burial and medical benefits amounting to P13,000, all of which a grieving family stands to lose in a lopsided contract.

More than five million pesos, indeed. Who knows? Maybe, even just one tiny drop of sympathy for the poor ...translated into a genuine vote of empathy may yet go more than five million miles in the corridors of heaven.


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