POSTSCRIPT / April 12, 2007 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Old GSIS pensioners gripe about eCard use

FEW ATMs: Our mention of the Government Service Insurance System now paying its pensioners via Automated Teller Machines instead of by checks mailed to them elicited enough retort that could keep the GSIS sleepless in the next six months plugging the holes in its system.

We are running here early samples of pensioners’ reactions (freely edited) to give the GSIS a clue on what seems to be the trouble. For buena mano, Aileen Candido of lacity.org says in an email:

“While the use of ATM cards is very convenient, GSIS pensioners from municipalities without ATM facilities find it doubly expensive and difficult. This is true in Eastern Samar. The capital town of Borongan is the only place where there are ATMs. Pensioners from 22 other towns have to go to Borongan to withdraw. This predicament exists not only in Eastern Samar but in other provinces as well.”

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GRIPES: From Edna A. Espos of Apt 612 Windsor Tower, Makati: “My parents, scores of elderly relatives and neighbors are pensioners. Majority of pensioners do not need a bank to encash their checks. Merchants in the towns encash them for a small fee.

“We have arranged for my parents’ grand niece to withdraw their pension and send the cash to them through the bus driver and/or anyone else she can trust. Some of my observations:

“1. ATMs are not conveniently located. They are mostly installed in urban areas. Pensioners from the barrios and towns have to travel (from my town to Tacloban City it is P80 return trip for one person).

“2. The card is attached to the Union Bank only. Withdrawal from a Megalink member-bank is charged P10 per transaction. There is only one Union Bank in Tacloban. This has meant long queues extending outside to the streets.

“3. Scores of pensioners are electronically challenged. They should not be forced to learn a new technology to enjoy their pensions. They have already served this country. Is it too much to ask for a little consideration from the GSIS on this?

“4. E-Card Pensions do not always come on time. It is already the second week of April but the March pension still has to reach the bank. My mother has not received her pension since December. She has Alzheimer so GSIS sent a team to the house last January to take her photo and verify her signature, but still no pension.”

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WHAT’S UP?: Napoleon J. Casambre of 1453 E. Jefferson Wy, 8-112 Simi Valley, Calif., says:

“I was one of those who enrolled for the eCard at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles last March 9. A couple of days ago, I tried sending an e-mail to Ms. E.A. Valencerina, the Vice President for Public Affairs of the GSIS, inquiring when the cards will be released, but it did not go through. It has been a month now since the enrollment was done, but, so far, no word from the GSIS.”

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DELAYED PENSIONS: Reader Abel M. Almario writes from the Chatham House Building, Salcedo Village, Makati City:

“If you go to the GSIS office and inquire on the complaints of the throng of pensioners there, you will know that they have had their eCards as early as December but there is nothing to withdraw, because their monthly pensions had not been deposited for December 2006 until March 2007.

“Despite visiting the GSIS main office at Pasay City four times and the repeated telephone calls of my mother-in-law, a retired school principal, a septuagenarian and an eCard holder, she was able to get her pension for March only. The pension for January and February are yet to be deposited by GSIS. This problem is being experienced by pensioners nationwide.”

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SANS ATM CARD: From Santiago, Chile, where he now resides, retired ambassador Rodolfo A. Arizala says in an email:

“There is a problem which I hope would be addressed by authorities concerned. I refer to the adoption of a temporary measure for those not yet served by the GSIS eCard Plus system or those who are not near where such GSIS eCard Plus system exists.

“In my letter of Dec. 28, 2006, to GSIS President & General Manager Winston F. Garcia, I said: ‘For humanitarian reason and in line with the policy of GSIS to protect and alleviate the conditions of government pensioners, it is hoped and prayed that in countries or areas where there are no G-W@PS kiosks yet, personal appearance before a Philippine diplomatic or consular official having jurisdiction over the area or place where the pensioners reside abroad and a Certificate to that effect by such official would be considered substantial compliance with GSIS purpose, instead of suspending their pensions and requiring them to travel to the Philippines or to countries where the GSIS has established G-W@PS kiosks.’

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TEXT BRIGADE: Back to politics… Campaign managers, please tell your Cellfon Brigades to stop sending me text messages disparaging or libeling some targeted senatorial candidates. So-and-so daw is bakla, or that this drugs-financed senator has zillions stashed away in foreign banks, or that this opportunistic political butterfly is buying himself a Senate seat with his reputed billions, or that this woman candidate sleeps with kung sinu-sino. It is pointless and wasteful to send such messages to me, since I delete them the moment I smell their septic content. If you have evidence of wrongdoing, let us file charges after the elections.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 12, 2007)

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