Exclusion of SSS pensioners from SAP lamented

THE Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease was urged on Tuesday to reconsider its decision excluding Social Security System (SSS) pensioners as beneficiaries of the social amelioration program (SAP), explaining those who are just getting less than monthly P5,000 pension may find hard to survive the economic crisis triggered by coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Bayan Muna Chair Neri Colmenares lamented the non-inclusion of SSS pensioners who usually spend their little pension for the purchase of maintenance medicine.

"We have long been pushing for the release of the second tranche of P1,000 SSS pension increase way ahead of the COVID pandemic because of the hardships suffered by our pensioners. In fact, when the pandemic hit our country, and, Metro Manila was placed under lockdown, this was also one of our suggestions in the Bayanihan Act to help cushion its impact on our elderly people. But our plea landed on deaf ears. So now our seniors are doubly burdened by the lockdown because they cannot go out to earn a little to add to their meager pension, and, worse the government even deny them even a little help," said Zarate.

"At present, the basic SSS pension is just P2,000 per month, thus, it is very not compassionate for the government to deprive our SSS pensioners of help, especially in this time of crisis. No wonder that Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (MMGPI), an Australia-backed study, branded the Philippines as one of the worst pension systems for retirees compared to the rest of the world in 2019," said Zarate.

"We strongly call on the IATF to seriously reconsider its position and include SSS pensioners receiving less than P5,000 a month in the social amelioration program so that our seniors' plight would somehow be alleviated in this time of pandemic," said Zarate.

For his part, Colmenares echoed Zarate's position, saying “the current state of SSS pensioners is already sub-human with just P66 a day of pension."

"Majority of our seniors do not even have enough to buy food let alone their maintenance medicines, especially under this pandemic. They are the most vulnerable in this time of pandemic, and, the least the government can do is to augment even a little their means to survive this crisis. It would be well for the Duterte administration to reconsider its policy. We even challenge Pres. Duterte to step up by directing the SSS to immediately release the additional P1k SSS pension, and, for the DSWD to raise to P1,000 the current P500.00 monthly social pension for senior citizens," Colmenares explained.

"During the lockdown however, we urge the government to give at least P4500 to senior citizens getting P500 per month. Para makakuha din sila ng P5000 na financial assistance. Ganun din sa SSS pensioners na ang pension ay P2000 lang. Dapat dagdagan ng 3,000. Lahat ng SSS pensioners ay mahihirap at dapat dagdagan ito para at least umabot sa P5,000 to P8,000 na amelioration fund na binigay ng gobiyerno ngayong buwan," said Colmenares.