CEBU

Tell it to SunStar: Request to Congress

I READ a news item quoting Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as saying that government officials and employees will be getting pay increases. These government officials include the President, Vice President, members of Congress and many others.

The Speaker also noted that other sectors like public school teachers and nurses in government service are also asking for increases and the Speaker vowed to look into their requests, especially because, he said, the military and police forces have been given their hefty pay raises.

Now that the legislators have taken care of their welfare, it is really time to look after the need for pay increases for other sectors. But the legislators seem to be missing a very important sector of the Filipino population that is also rapidly increasing, and I am referring to the elderly or senior citizens, those who have reached 60 years of age and above.

This significant segment, which comprises more than 12 percent of the population, has paid its dues to society and has contributed its share to the country’s development.

The retirees deserve the legislators’ serious attention. It is true that there are many laws granting pensions to retirees. But these pension laws are inadequate. Right now, there are several bills filed in the 18th Congress seeking to amend some of these retirement laws, among them Republic Act 1616, under which law many had retired.

Amend the Portability Law (RA 7699)

There is one retirement law, Republic Act (RA) 7699, otherwise known as The Portability Law, which grants persons who are retiring from government service but lack the 15 years of service that will entitle them to qualify for pension from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), to add the lacking years to complete 15 years, from their work service under the Social Security System (SSS), to complete 15 years, in order to be entitled to pensions from GSIS.

The law grants this right of adding the service years for retirees who originally worked for the government and later worked for the private sector. The law makes their service record portable from the private pension system (SSS) to the government pension plan (GSIS) and vice versa.

I am familiar with this law, as I was working in the Committee Affairs Department of the House of Representatives when this Act was deliberated upon until its enactment.

But pensioners under The Portability Law are NOT entitled to:

The right to get increase in pension like other retirees under the other pension laws, because of GSIS Resolution 177, dated Dec. 12, 2007;

The right to receive the yearend cash gift, due to GSIS Resolution 187, dated Nov. 18, 2009;

The right to get adjustments in their pension as mandated by RA 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Feb. 15, 2010, which provides under paragraph (h) of Section 4, “the continuance of benefits and privileges given by the GSIS, SSS and Pag-Ibig... And shall be upgraded to be at par with the current scale enjoyed by those in actual service.” Examples of these benefits are the cash gift or 13th month pay and pension adjustment.

Request to Congress

Congress has the inherent power to review the implementation of the laws it enacted, under the so-called oversight function, in order to update, upgrade, amend or even repeal a law if need be. During the 17th Congress, party-list representative Francisco G. Datol Jr. filed House Resolution 1639 for such review and, in the Senate, Sen. Bam Aquino filed Senate Resolution 583 calling for such oversight function.

No such oversight function was done during the 17th Congress, so the two resolutions, to quote a former congressman from Mindanao, “just lied there and died there” in the archives. Or perhaps, it was another kind of “oversight.”

As a retiree discriminated against by the harsh interpretation of RA 7699, I pray that Congress will finally use its oversight function to make the GSIS implement RA 9994 and shelve its two board resolutions, passed in 2007 and 2009, which law students will classify as having been repealed, revoked or dismantled by RA 9994 enacted in 2010.

The official act with a later date nullifies a previous act that is in contravention with the later act. Time for congressional action! After all, there are many seniors in Congress.


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