“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24)
Our trust in those tasked to manage the resources of the people has been severely challenged over recent time. Latest events in the people-owned but state-run Social Security System (SSS) added cause for this lack of confidence. We are astounded at the hypocrisy involved in the SSS directors awarding themselves millions of pesos in performance bonuses while at the same time refusing to increase levels of pensions and demanding increased contributions from already struggling private sector workers. A news report (“SSS head defends bonuses…” PDI, October 5, 2013) says that the fund will not be able to meet its obligations after 2039 without an increased contribution from 10.4 to 11 percent.
Performance is more than attendance at meetings, and if the SSS fund has become so precarious, on what basis have performance bonuses to directors been justified? There are still outstanding issues in relation to the SSS that have not been addressed, such as the legitimacy of previous bonuses that previous directors have gifted to themselves, and the finding of the Commission on Audit last year that in 2011 alone the SSS had overcharged borrowers by more than PhP 788 million. Time and again the SSS coffers were misused at great expense to the backbone of our industry – the workers.
At this critical time in the life of our nation, when our trust in government financial honesty has been so challenged, all public officials should demonstrate impeccable integrity in dealing with the people’s resources and the welfare of the greater whole. We call on the government and the SSS directors to be more transparent in how and where they use the people’s money. Such will dispel the conjecture that the government has an interest in increasing the SSS contributions so that there is more money for bonuses and investment in private-public partnerships. Given that the SSS is owned by the members we call on the government to be transparent to the members in regard to its investment strategy and in what entities funds are being invested. A significant response of government to the fractured faith of the people in the integrity of its financial management must be increased transparency and accountability and efficient service.
We join the workers in their protest against these excesses in the SSS and urge the private sector to do likewise. We pray, too, that Congress will be more caring and so pass House Bill 175 which seeks to increase the pension of retired workers.
This unending cycle of self-reward at the expense of so many reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah that those with evil intentions seek out the cover of darkness. “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, and whose deeds are done in a dark place, and they say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’ You turn things around!” (Isaiah 29:15-16a).
We pray to our God of light and truth, that we may be a people and nation, upon whom the light might shine, and we do not need to live in fear and anxiety.
THE MOST REV. EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Chairperson, NCCP
Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.
October 7, 2013