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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, September 5, 2013
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SSS travails – 2


It was an unexpected move from the employees of the Social Security System last Monday and Tuesday. I got an email on the protest of the employees affiliated with their union called ACCESS.

As a sign of protest, they have pinned black ribbons on their uniforms. It was a silent but revealing form of protest and it registered with the members.

However their issue is different from those of the members. The employees are demanding for their benefits that had either been abolished or simply withdrawn. They are also protesting against the management of the system.  In this we are in solidarity with them.

On their part the members are asking for speedy processing of their benefits; the  pensions of pensioners that had not been increased for years despite the inflation that had eroded the value of their benefits.

The SSS had justified this refusal to increase the pensions by saying that if pensions are increased the SSS will go bankrupt. Increase the pension, the SSS says, but also increase the premiums.

In a word, they will give only if the members give the SSS more. That is an indolent justification as if without an increase in premiums, the SSS cannot do anything else.

The new SSS management had boasted at the start of the Aquino administration that they have billions in assets but also billions of collectibles. A congressman asked why the SSS is not collecting as its failure is, in effect, punishing the members.    

This is the point in this column – the SSS hands are not tied by the premiums alone but they can raise the money by other means. The solon proposed improved collecting of the arrears and reducing its cost.

It is known that SSS spends a lot of money in endless seminars and conferences in top hotels and resorts. But that is not our subject for the moment. I started on the centralization of the processing in Iloilo.

The justification of SSS President and CEO Emilio de Quiros for this centralization, that is causing a lot of inconvenience and complaints, is to “save on office space rental and provide for additional office space for transacting members.”  (De Quiros’ Office Order No. 2012-044)

That’s a wonderful objective, but was De Quiros joking or was he unaware of the conditions of the various processing centers?

This Paper that came out of Bacolod after De Quiros ordered last year the transfer of the processing center to Iloilo reveals he is aware and thus makes a lie of De Quiros’ claim that the centralization of processing in Iloilo would achieve his declared objective of reducing rental cost and providing bigger space for transacting members.

The facts cited by the employees of Bacolod are clear: the office space in Bacolod is free because the 4-storey building is owned by the SSS. On the other hand the SSS office in Iloilo is rented for P4.8 million each year. This does not include the utilities expenses in the third and fourth floor.

Is De Quiros saving P4.8 million of the SSS money or is he squandering it since what can be done in Iloilo can be done in Bacolod?

He says he wants more space for the members. Will this not mean that the rented space in Iloilo has to be expanded and therefore the rental will likewise increase?

What kind of saving scheme is this? Does it stand to logic or due to capriciousness?  Or maybe he wants to give more business to the owner of the rented building?

The transferring of people and machines required expenses. Why would he spend precious money transferring the machines when there is no need for it? Is it because he is spending SSS, or more members’ money and not his own?

And he says the SSS lacks money?

The Paper also says “the infrastructure of the Processing Center in Bacolod Branch has long been in place” and “all the hardware and equipments are all in place.” So why spend money dislocating them?

Bacolod Branch is the biggest in Western Visayas: 29 regular employees against Iloilo’s 11. Downgrading Bacolod will dislocate many of employees and add to their expenses since they have to relocate. Inflicting uncalled for inconvenience to them and their families is cruelty. Does De Quiros care at all that these are people and not insensitive machines! 

The SSS regional office is in Bacolod because Negros has more members than the entire Panay. As of 2012, there are 11,445 employer members in Bacolod; 6,711 in Iloilo. Of employee members Bacolod has 69,613; Iloilo has only 43,373.

I shall continue next week.*





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