POSTSCRIPT / May 20, 2010 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Spotty SSS files delay benefits due members

TEKA MUNA!: Social Security System president Romulo Neri is offering to the Commission on Elections the multipurpose ID cards that SSS has been sharing with three other agencies as voters’ identification cards.

Before embarking on this ambitious project, the SSS should first clean house and do something about its own unreliable record system that has deprived long-time members like me of retirement and other benefits.

My case is simple, but the geniuses running the SSS have made it complicated. They refuse to give me credit for my eight-year service as a reporter of the old Manila Times from 1964 until it was padlocked in 1972 upon the imposition of martial rule.

Refusing to recognize that eight-year segment of my employment, the SSS has drastically reduced my retirement and other benefits. Of course I have protested their faulty computation and refused to accept the reduced benefits offered to me.

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MISSING RECORDS: The excuse given for the slashing of my creditable service as a bona fide SSS member is that they have lost the records pertaining to my stint with the Manila Times. I have suggested to them to check the bodega where my papers may have been dumped.

The SSS is saying in effect that the venerable Manila Times, at that time the biggest English-language daily in Asia, was not remitting its social security contributions as well as the shares deducted from its hundreds of employees. That cannot be!

So now I am being made to suffer as a result of the SSS’s own neglect and its infidelity in the custody of service records of its members. It must locate or reconstruct its records.

The highly-paid fatheads at SSS continue to sit on my case, presumably waiting for me to die and thereby drop my claims.

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SENATE VACANCY: When Sen. Noynoy Aquino becomes the president on June 30, the Senate batch of 2013 to which he belongs will lose him and have only 11 members remaining in the chamber.

From June 30, 2010, to June 30, 2013, the Senate will have only 23 members, including the soldier-solon Antonio Trillanes who is in detention and unable to perform normal legislative work.

So do we hold special election before 2013 to fill the vacancy to be left by Aquino?

“Di na puede,” says election lawyer Romy Macalintal. The vacancy will remain until 2013, when regular elections will be held for 12 new senators, including the replacement of Aquino, and the usual slew of local officials.

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13TH PLACER: The Constitution (Section 9, Article VI) provides that when there is a vacancy in the Senate, “a special election may be called to fill such vacancy in the manner prescribed by law, but the senator … thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term.”

Macalintal explains that the law (RA 6645) prescribes that the special election called must be held with the regular elections, which in this case is in 2013. With Aquino’s term ending in 2013, the vacancy will be included in the regular 12 seats to be filled.

Neither is it proper to just allow the 13th placer in the just-concluded elections to sit in as Aquino’s replacement. The May 10 voting was just for 12 senators.

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ABOLISH SENATE: I would rather that we do not bother filling vacancies in the Senate. It might be best to allow the Senate to shrink into nothingness, such as by attrition.

When a senator dies, resigns or moves to occupy another government post and a vacancy is thus created, his seat should remain permanently unoccupied and no replacement elected in the next or later elections.

We can survive without a Senate doing exactly what the bigger House of Representatives already does. This small country does not need two redundant legislative chambers that were copied from the congressional setup of the great United States (pop. 307 million).

When it is time to amend or revise the Constitution, we should seriously consider adopting a unicameral Congress, a Batasang Pambansa type whose mechanics hew closer to our present Congress than to a British Parliament.

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CO-EQUAL CORONA: On another topic, Macalintal said Chief Justice Renato Corona cannot be removed by incoming President Aquino by mere executive order. Since when can a President fire his co-equal in another branch of government?

Under the Constitution (Section 2, Article XI), he added, members of the Supreme Court may be removed from office only by impeachment. That is a well-defined process of which the President is not a participant.

Even in the case of other government officials, their permanent appointments cannot be revoked without their being given the right to be heard on a petition for their removal.

“No matter how high you are, you must follow the rule of law,” reminded then Chief Justice Reynato Puno before he went into retirement last May 17.

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THAI LESSON: Our more impulsive leaders prone to fiery talk of hate and vengeance may learn timely lessons from the crisis, bordering on civil war, that has gripped Thailand the last few days.

The gentle Thais find themselves in a bloody confrontation right in Bangkok, the capital, as Red Shirt forces battle government troops to force a change of government – for whom, it is not very clear.

After patiently holding off, security forces launched yesterday their largest offensive against the Red Shirts. This time, at least five people were reported killed as troops seized the protesters’ Lumpini Park stronghold.

Black smoke was seen rising over the Bangkok skyline. There was news that retreating protesters had set fire to the Thai Stock Exchange, the Central World shopping complex and other buildings.

We Filipinos want something like that?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 20, 2010)

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