Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero is urging his fellow lawmakers to override President Aquino’s veto of legislation granting a P2,000 across-the-board increase in the pension of retired Social Security System (SSS) members, a measure that would have benefited close to 2 million pensioners.
“It is saddening because our SSS pensioners have waited long enough for this measure,” said Escudero, the leading vice-presidential candidate in the May elections.
“There is no better time than now to have the SSS pension hike bill enacted into law, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate and members of the House of Representatives to do the right thing and vote to override the President’s ill-advised veto of this bill,” he added.
Under Article VI, Section 27 of the 1987 Constitution, Congress can override a presidential veto by passing the bill with a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“We need to muster the two-thirds majority vote to override the veto. It may be difficult but we will try for the sake of our SSS pensioners,” Escudero pointed out.
In his two separate identical letters to Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., President Aquino said that while he recognizes the objective of the measure “to promote the well-being of the country’s private sector retirees, we cannot support the bill in its present form because of its dire financial consequences.”
According to the President, the P2,000 across-the-board pension hike with a corresponding adjustment of the minimum monthly pension would result in “substantial negative income for the SSS.”
House Bill No. 5842 sought to amend the Social Security Act of 1997 by increasing the present minimum pension of P1,200 to P3,200 for retirees with at least 10 years of credited service. For those with over 20 years of credited service, monthly pension will increase from P2,400 to P4,400.
The bill, authored by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, was passed on third reading by the House of Representatives on June 9 last year and was adopted in toto by the Senate on November 9.
Some 1.9 million retirees are expected to benefit from the proposed legislation.
Escudero had earlier said that private sector retirees, many of whom are salaried employees whose incomes have been heavily taxed during their working years, need immediate help so they can cope with the rising cost of living.
“A significant increase in pension is necessary to enable our senior citizens maintain an acceptable living standard, taking into consideration the ever-increasing cost of living,” he said.
The veteran lawmaker said the existing monthly SSS pensions are, “without question, not enough for seniors to afford their basic needs like shelter, food and medicine.”
“A decent pension would keep the elderly out of poverty and allow them to complete their life journey with dignity and comfort,” Escudero said.
He said experiences in other countries showed that giving bigger pension to senior citizens, especially those living below the poverty line, results in better life conditions for a larger population as the elders share their benefits with the members of their household by buying food, supplies, clothes and even school materials for their grandchildren.