Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Senate has approved on final reading House Bill 5842, which would give an across-the-board increase of P2,000 monthly to 1.9 million pensioners of the Social Security System (SSS). The senators voted 15 in favor of the bill, with one negative vote cast by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and no abstentions. Enrile said he was against the bill because its "generous benefit" to pensioners would eventually lead to the "bankruptcy of the SSS." The bill would to amend the Social Security Act of 1997. The latest amendment to the law was 18 years ago under RA 8282.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprise, is the principal sponsor of the bill. The other sponsors are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Deputy Minority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, and Sens. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Francis "Chiz' Escudero, Jose "Jinggoy" Ejercito-Estrada, and Ferdinand “Bongbong" Marcos Jr., “Given the rising cost of living, it is high time we give our retirees and their family a monthly pension that will allow them to at least live with dignity,” Villar said. “We must also consider that many of our retired workers, given their old age, have maintenance medicines and special requirements that add to their daily living expenses. Increasing their pension is the least we could do to reward them for decades of hardwork.”
Senate President Franklin Drilon called the passage of the bill "an early Christmas gift of the Senate to the SSS pensioners." At the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Reps. Neri Colmenares, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Mark Villar, Jesus Sacdalan, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Cresente Paez, Agapito Guanlao, Edgardo Masongsong, Leah Paquiz, and Antonio Tinio. In 2014, the SSS granted a 5 percent across-the-board pension increase, Villar pointed out. But she said the increase was "definitely inadequate" and could not cover the rising cost of living for the past 18 years. The National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB), she said, put the monthly poverty threshold for a family of five at P8,022 per month, below which a family would be considered poor.
As things stood, the average SSS pensioner receives P3,169, which is below the poverty threshold, she said. “I do not think that the basis for which the SSS was established – that of promoting social justice and providing meaningful protection to its members and their beneficiaries against the hazards of old age, loss of income, among others – is at work,” Villar said. Citing more figures, Recto said about 1.5 million of the SSS pensioners, or about 81.5 percent, received in 2012 a monthly pension below P4,000, which is less than the daily minimum wage and was below the poverty line set by the government. “The consolidated bill seeks an across-the-board increase of P2,000 on the monthly SSS pension," he said. "In effect, those receiving the minimum pension of P1,200 per month will now receive P3,200 under this bill. The average SSS pensioner gets about P3,169 a month. If this bill becomes law, his pension will increase to P5,169.” He added that the increase would not result in underspending since pensioners would spend their money and boost the economy.