Sanchez: Sauce for the gander

OTRA vez on the presidential veto on pensions.

Allow me to quote Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who said “Social Security is a promise to seniors—not a piggybank slush fund for Washington politicians. Social Security is not welfare, it’s not an entitlement, it is an earned benefit that seniors deserve.”

Frankly, I’m not much of a Huckabee fan. So I consider him a “hostile” witness in the Philippine discourse on whether to hike pensions.

I agree. The pension increase is a plea for alms but a rights-based demand for mandatory contributions that are supposed to have gone for social welfare.

It was these contributions that have enabled SSS President Emilio de Quiros, former vice president of the Ayala–owned Bank of the Philippine Island and vice president of Ayala Life Assurance, Inc., to transfer significant equity investments in Philex Mining Corp., PLDT Co., First Holdings Corp., Meralco, and Union Bank.

SSS also funneled at least P105 billion of pension funds, or 30 percent of the investment reserve fund, to the stock market.

Any earnings should accrue to the contributors. The SSS claims to have earned P18 billion from its corporate investments in the first half of 2013. But what do we see?

The SSS officials and personnel have awarded themselves over P71.612 million which the Commission on Audit (COA) has ruled are unauthorized bonuses. These included “short-term variable pay,” Christmas gifts and bank gift certificates.

COA disallowed the bonuses for not being part of the Corporate Operating Budget of SSS in 2012 in violation of COA rules. The SSS appealed the original notice of disallowance issued on June 13, 2012, but COA denied the appeal in a resolution issued on Nov. 5, 2013.

Manila Standard columnist Rod Kapunan wrote in 2014 that de Quiros earned P4.348 million from Belle Corp., while Eliza Bettina Antonino got P1.244 million from Philex Mining in 2012 that if true spells clearcut conflicts of interest.

Later in 2013, the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCC) approved incentives for at least 20 GOCCs for 2012, worth P67.7 million. This included the SSS which gave its directors eligibility to receive over a million pesos in bonuses for 2012, totaling P9.3 million. This, despite plans the SSS would ask for higher contributions from SSS members.

To sum up. Entitlements on SSS funds are reserve for its top management. So too, the big corporations that received largesse from the SSS coffers. But entitlements from the contributors themselves? Sorry, sauce for the gander is not sauce for the goose. They get the loose change.
(bqsanc@yahoomail.com)
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