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Gerry Baldo

The Bayan Muna partylist chapter in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City has condemned President Aquino for vetoing the bill that grants a P2,000 increase in the monthly pension of Social Security System (SSS) pensioners.

Magdalena Barroga, an SSS pensioner herself and sitio vice president of Bayan Muna in the city, said they staged a protest at the SSS branch along Shaw Boulevard yesterday morning to condemn Aquino.
They also urged Congress to override President Aquino’s hasty veto of the desired P2,000 pension increase for senior citizens.
Barroga said “President Aquino’s, and the top SSS executives’ attitude and actions toward the bill reflect the kind of administration he led over the  past six years — that, preferring profit over the actual needs of the people, especially those who are already marginalized like the 2 million senior citizens.”
She revealed her SSS pension of P1,200 monthly could not sustain her needs as a senior citizen.
“Loyally acting as Aquino’s minions, the SSS executives deceive the public by threatening us that SSS will close down by 2029 because of the added expense. Yet, they continue to shower their officials with multimillion pesos in bonuses and allowances. On the other hand, all we are asking for is a livable pension which we deserve because we were contributors, too. The funds will last until 2029.The SSS has more than a decade to fix its mere 40 percent collection rate and go after businesses that do not remit the contributions of their employees. Ordinary employees and workers like us who are now pensioners contributed greatly to the SSS funds yet in our twilight years, we, pensioners, are in dire need of means to purchase our own food, medicines and other household needs. We deserve better treatment from the SSS,” Barroga explained.
“SSS must also be transparent in how it collects and uses it funds, since over 300 billion are not collected, and billions more are used for investments in companies that only a few are benefiting. If these officials are truly good, then they should prove themselves by finding ways to correct its small collection rate. Also, SSS should also push for government subsidy since Aquino has been misallocating billions of pesos all these years to corruption-ridden and anomalous programs via the Disbursement Acceleration Program and Priority Development Assistance Programs. The government can fund PhilHealth and other Private-Public Partnerships, why not SSS?” Barroga asked.
“If SSS officials pursue the already proposed solutions, there will be funds for the pensioners and will not even have to close down by 2042. They have many years to fix the problem, and they should start now. Their officials should stop imitating Aquino’s mindset of complacency and ‘but you did not die’ mindset, and pursue better services based on the clear need of the people. It must be remembered that SSS is a social service and so it is a government responsibility and not an income generating institution. We, Filipinos, must unite to accomplish this,” Barroga said.
In a related development,
Doctors belonging to the Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) has diagnosed President Aquino as “heartless” for vetoing the law granting a P2,000 monthly increase for SSS pensioners.
Speaking in behalf of the Health Alliance for Democracy (Head), secretary general Dr. Joseph Carabeo said “the Aquino administration’s skewed priorities are again exposed when the President vetoed the SSS pension hike bill.”
Carabeo has asked 2.15 million SSS pensioners as well as those covered by the Government Service Insurance System to denounce the action of the pennypinching Aquino and his cohorts. pointing out that his veto proves he does not care for SSS pensioners and the people’s welfare.
He pleaded with the two chambers of Congress to override the Aquino veto and show to the entire people that he is nothing more than a lameduck.
“Head denounces this heartless veto and supports the people’s call for Congress to override the veto and pass the SSS P2,000 pension hike bill, authored by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares,” Carabeo stressed.
“The Aquino administration suffers from paranoia claiming that SSS will go bankrupt by 2029 should the pension hike push through. The P10-billion annual deficit (not P16 billion to P24 billion as earlier claimed by Mr. Aquino) can be remedied by more efficient collections from delinquent employers and borrowers, and reducing operational expenses (like salaries and bonuses of 25 vice presidents.) In 2014 alone, more than P400 million went to bonuses for SSS executives and top employees, with SSS Executive Vice President Rizaldy Capulong receiving almost P5 million,” the doctor claimed.
“Moreover, the SSS has over P400 billion worth of reserve funds through investments along with a P46 billion income in the same year,” Carabeo said.
“The bankruptcy scare has also become a tactic to divide public opinion. The SSS Act of 1997 provides a sovereign guarantee that  the government must provide funds should there be a deficit. The government can allocate P64 billion for the Conditional Cash Transfer  program and hundreds of billions for discretionary funds like intelligence funds, President’s Social Fund and other pork-ridden allocations. Thus, it should be easy for the government to allocate P10 billion for the pension fund of retired workers who during their prime contributed to the economy despite their meager income,” he explained.
“The pension hike is not a doleout but a delayed compensation for the pensioners’ services to the country. Around 2.15 million retirees will benefit from the pension hike if it is passed. As of date, the minimum amount that a retiree receives from SSS is P1,200 monthly. The P2,000 increase, albeit small, would be of help to aging and ailing beneficiaries. This would help support their daily needs, including medicines and health treatment,” Carabeo argued.
Aquino tried to dismiss the retirees’ pleas by insisting that other government bodies, such as the Department of Health and PhilHealth, exist to take care of our senior citizens’ health.
We belie these claims because the services they speak of are nothing but dreams and are apparently in limbo, the Head leader asserted.
“Instead of security, the Aquino administration offers social insecurity and has failed to address the needs of Filipinos,”  Carabeo said.
“The Aquino administration has failed to institute substantial reforms even in his last few months in office. It would not be a surprise if he vetoes yet another pro-people piece of legislation. Meanwhile, incentives rain down for government executives, huge business owners and foreign investors,” Carabeo said.
She added: “This has been Aquino’s legacy. A heartless President, devoid of empathy for the people he governs, favoring the few over the masses, steers the Philippines through his nauseating ‘daang matuwid’ mantra. This trend is to continue unless we change the system. Are we to suffer for another 6 years of this hell? Never again!”  

The House committee on Muslim Affairs yesterday approved a bill that bans the use of the word “Muslim” in reporting crimes.

The proponents of the bill maintained that using “Muslim” in crime reporting creates a  negative perception against the ethnic religious  minority in the  country.
Former Lanao del Sur Rep. Faisah Dumarpa, during the 14th Congress has filed  similar bill.
Dumarpa said that the use of “Muslim” in the reportage of crime constitutes “racial profiling.”
Now the House panel, chaired by Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, has passed House Bill 5969 or “An Act Prohibiting the Use, in Philippine Tri-Media, Police Blotters, and Other Government Agencies, of the Word “Muslim” to Describe Any Person Suspected of Committing Any Felony When Reporting Such Felony.”
Authored by 1-BAP partylist Rep. Silvestre Bello III, Loong’s panel unanimously approved the bill almost in toto.
Bello, the bill’s author, welcomed the approval of the measure as the bill will be referred to the plenary next week for reconsideration.
The bill said the use of word “Muslim” in media should be used with utmost prudence, fairness and accuracy.
“The bill simply seeks Philippine media professionals and organizations to be prudent and judicious and should fairly and accurately report the suspected malefactor for what he did, rather than for who he is, especially his ethnicity and sect,” Bello said.
Bello, a former peace negotiator, deplored the use of the word “Muslim” by the media because it smacks of prejudice and unwarranted notoriety for the Filipino minority group.
“Why aren’t there any headlines of  Catholics or  other religious  sect members suspected of committing similar criminal acts like “Catholic rebels torch municipal hall” or “Police  arrest Protestant bombing suspect”?  or “Cops  nab Aglipay kidnapers?” Bello, also a former justice secretary, asked.
“The only justifiable and legally tenable use of the word Muslim for violations of law should be  when the criminal act was expressly performed by the suspected malefactor or criminal for religious purposes or with religious underpinnings, or purposely done to draw attention to their being  Muslims,” Bello said.
Bello explained in his bill that “a ‘Muslim’ relates to a person who follows the religion of Islam, a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the Quran.”
“For a fifth of the world’s population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the great majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave and violent events which have come to be associated with their faith,” Bello added.
“But the continuing and irresponsible use of the word “Muslim” in media, usually on pejorative terms, has led to the further marginalization and ostracization of our brothers and sisters of the Islam faith to a point  that  it has unjustly made “Muslim” synonymous with radicalism, lawlessness and  criminality,” Bello explained.
Under Bello’s proposal, it shall be unlawful for any media reporter, writer, media outlet, police blotter, government agencies, private or public hospitals or such other institutions to use the word “Muslim” to describe any person suspected of committing any unlawful act or of the commission of a crime, when reporting such unlawful or criminal act.
The prohibition applies to all government and private institutions, law enforcement agencies, hospitals required under Presidential Decree 169 (Requiring Doctors, Hospitals, Clinics, etc to Report Treatment for Physical Injuries) to report all persons being treated for physical injuries resulting from any form of violence, and media practitioners whether practicing independently or connected to private or government media establishments.
Bello’s measure carries a penalty ranging from:  a fine of not less than 500 pesos nor more than 1,000 pesos for the first offense; a fine of not less than 1,000 pesos nor more than 3,000 pesos for the second offense; suspension of the government license, permit or accreditation of the concerned media outfit or establishment for a period of not less than 6 months nor more than 12 months for the third offense; and revocation of the government permit to operate and or prohibition to engage as a media practitioner for the fourth offense.
Bello clarified that the penalties prescribed under the measure were not and never intended to antagonize the media; but serves as a clear protocol or guideline on how the word “Muslim” should be treated in pursuit of their job as responsible journalists and media practitioners.

The House of Representatives, apparently taking advantage of a quorum, on Tuesday, approved three bills on second reading. There were 174 on the floor.

Among these bills are the institutionalization of the controversial Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps); a bill allowing 100 foreign ownership of adjustment, lending and investment houses and one that would strengthen public private partnership.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the approved bills are among the priority bill of the House.
The House also adopted the Senate version of the Election Service Reform Act that makes election service non-compulsory for public school teachers.
Approved on second reading is a bill that will amend investment restriction in specific laws governing adjustment firms, lending companies, financing and investment houses cited in the Foreign Investment Negative List.
According to Belmonte the measure institutionalizing and strengthening the PPP seeks to recognize the indispensable role of the private sector as the main engine for national growth and development, create an enabling environment for PPP.
Authors of the bill include Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II (LP, Mandaluyong City); Reps. Romero Quimbo (LP, Marikina City); Ronald Cosalan (LP, Benguet) and Belmonte.
Under the PPP bill, appropriate incentives will be provided to encourage private resources to finance design, construct, operate and maintain infrastructure projects and services normally financed and undertaken by the government
The 4Ps bill that will institutionalize the conditional cash transfer program, which was started during the Arroyo administration, won the support of the House majority bloc.
Under the bill the Department of Social Welfare and Development  (DSWD) shall select qualified household-beneficiaries using a standardized targeting system.
It also provides that  the DSWD shall conduct a revalidation of targeting every three years.
The measure also said that subject to certain conditions, each qualified household-beneficiary shall receive a conditional cash transfer equivalent to P500 per month for health and nutrition expenses or the equivalent of P6,000 per qualified household-beneficiary per year.
A maximum of three children per qualified household-beneficiary shall be given-conditional grant for educational expenses, it said.
The measure provided for P300 per month per child enrolled in elementary or the equivalent of P3,000 per a 10-month school year; P500 per month per child in junior high school-or-the equivalent of P5,000 per a 10-month school year; P700 per month per child enrolled in senior high school or the equivalent of P7,000 per 10-month school year.


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