Rosario, Cavite – The Workers Assistance Center (WAC) held a forum on November 30, their 20
th founding anniversary in its office at Sapa 1 of the said town.

Rep. Neri Colmenares of the Party list Bayan Muna was the guest speaker and tackled the recently enacted bill to increase the retirees’ monthly pension from the Social Security System (SSS) and still pending bill of lowering income taxes in the country.

The discussion started at 10 in the morning who were attended by workers, church people, and village officials.

ep. Colmenares told the audience that the bill of hiking SSS pensions was filed as early as 2011 when pensioners approached him to look into their meager monthly subsidy amounting to 1,200PhP a month.

The amount received usually by senior citizens could not even cover their maintenance medicines and other basic needs. Thus, after rigorous study and research, Rep. Colmenares filed the bill to increase the monthly pension by 7,000PhP to help pensioners get by.

He also related that the bill went through against the heavy lobbying pressure from the SSS itself but senior citizens helped the bill to gain support.

According to Rep. Colmenares, senior citizens trooped congress twice a week and urged their respective district representative to support the said bill. Thus, after years of persistence, the bill was passed to congress and a similar bill was passed before the Senate.

But, the bill was passed not after a concession to reduce the amount was made. From the original proposal of 7,000Php a month, it was reduced to 2,000PhP.

Some lawmakers echoed SSS opposition to the bill saying that raising pension would shorten the actuarial life of the fund by 14 years or up to 2029 and raising members’ contribution would be necessary.

But the according to the progressive lawmaker, SSS and other fellow lawmakers looked like scaring the public that the fund would go bankrupt if such a measure is to enforce.

Countering the opposition, proponents of the bill offered solutions for the institution. First, increase its collection efficiency by at least 10%. In a congressional hearing, it was found out that the collection rate is inefficient pegged at 35-38%.

Second, SSS must persevere in filing cases against delinquent employers totaling to more than 160,000. It was found that the Fund only has an average of 1200 filed cases per year against such employers.

Lastly, SSS should cut expenses especially the exorbitant bonuses that it gives to its board members.

The bill was eventually passed this November 2015 after public outcry. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III though, earlier expressed his doubts on the bill, has yet to sign into law. Thus, it is expected that the president would wait the 30-day period to lapse to make law final while chance of issuing a veto on the law is rather slim since its election season.

However, if vetoed, the lawmaker said that it would require Congress to cast a vote of 2/3 to nullify the veto.

Rep. Colmenares also called out to support the law until the president signs it.

The lawmaker also discussed the importance of lowering income taxes in the Philippines since the ceiling of 500,000Php for income taxes was formulated around the 1980’s. Thus, the said amount is valued today at around P2.4-M.

Though, the bill is impossible to pass under the present administration because President Aquino made prior statements that people don’t need such a law right now and that media outfits were sensationalizing the issue.

After the open forum, the workers openly threw their support to the lawmaker in his senatorial bid in the upcoming May 2016 Presidential and Local Elections by forming the Workers for Neri Colmenares for Senator Movement.