POSTSCRIPT / June 8, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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What can Ᵽ200 hike in SSS pension buy?

BIG DEAL: It would be interesting to feel the pulse of the neglected 1.9 million pensioners of the Social Security System when they hear the SSS announcement that their monthly pension has been raised by five percent effective May 31.

For a pensioner receiving Ᵽ4,000 a month, that means an additional Ᵽ200. With inflation, what can that buy? To millions of Filipinos who scrimp to ease recurring hunger, that can mean one to three meals a month, depending on what they eat.

The five-percent pension boost was disclosed at the Clark Freeport last Friday by SSS Vice President Susie G. Bugante in a forum at the Bale Balita (House of News) of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI).

She was not sure if the news should be told right away since the raise will be reflected in the pensioners’ bank statements only by August. But in these trying times any good news, however minimal, must be told immediately.

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BIGGER NEWS: The bigger news Malacañang is itching to crow about is that three senators and their alleged pork barrel queen will be arrested and exhibited like trophies when President Noynoy Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 28.

Now over the hump and starting to slide down, we heard the President is groping for some monumental achievement to show as a kind of legacy, something concrete, when he steps down in 2016. There is none in sight.

Instead, the population has been reeling from reports of billions of taxpayers’ money being stolen from the pork barrel disguised as development assistance and disbursement acceleration funds.

The slogans being aired to provide buoyancy to the economy have proved inadequate in improving the quality of life. Trumpeting credit upgrades and supposed domestic growth has not transformed cold statistics into warm meals and steady jobs.

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PWDs & IPs: We share the good news of how Clark Development Corp. under CDC president Art P. Tugade looks after Persons with Disabilities and Indigenous Peoples in cooperation with the Clark Investors and Locators Association which hires and trains PWDs and IPs (including aetas in the contiguous areas).

In the second CDC-CILA jobs fair last May 29, of the 501 applicants, 25 were hired on the spot, 406 were for further processing, 23 scheduled for trade testing, 41 listed for future vacancies and six who did not qualify enrolled for training.

In the first jobs fair, of the 482 applicants, 38 were hired on the spot and 16 after the fair. As followup, 16 pangkabuhayan carts (worth Ᵽ12,000 for the cart and Ᵽ6,000 for groceries) were given to PWDs and IPs from Pampanga and Tarlac.

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PWD CHAMPIONS: In the last fair, Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca and Dr. Josephine “Doc Penny” Robredo-Bundoc (both with physical handicaps and champion of PWDs) and DSWD Asst. Secretary Teodulo Romo attended and gave inspirational messages.

Doc Penny is 2013 Apolinario Mabini Presidential Awardee, granted to individuals whose accomplishments in the last five years promote the rights and dignity of Filipinos with disabilities. Physicians for Peace International honored her with a Medical Diplomat Award during its 2011 gala in Norfolk, Virginia.

Dr. Josephine Robredo-Bundoc received Outstanding Physiatrist award for the Physicians for Peace Walking Free Program of UP-PGH that has given PWDs access to prostheses, wheelchairs and mobility devices.

Her brother Jesse, the late DILG secretary, set up the Naga City Resource Center for the Blind, the first of its kind in Bicol. The blind learn braille and are taught mobility and orientation, or how to use a white cane to get around so they can be more self-reliant.

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DI PA AYOS!: Back to the Social Security System, readers and friends ask me “Naayos ka na ba?” because I have not been talking about my measly pension and my having been victimized by SSS syndicates that used my records to claim benefits.

No, I just quieted down, on the mistaken belief that the SSS would do something about (1) my missing pre-martial rule employment record, (2) my pension which is way below that of some of my juniors, and (3) the inaction on SSS ring members who have helped themselves to my files.

In my Postscript of May 7 last year, I wrote of how after having worked hard for decades, at times holding key positions in mainstream media, I get disillusioned seeing fellow retirees who were my juniors now collecting bigger SSS pensions. See http://manilamail.com/archive/2013may/13may07/.

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SPOTTY RECORDS: One anomaly is the SSS having no record of my nearly a decade of employment and SSS membership as a reporter of the old Manila Times from 1964 until martial rule closed it in 1972.

It cannot be that the Times – then Asia’s largest circulated English-language daily — was not remitting my and my employer’s contributions. The SSS records of my fellow staffers were intact, but not mine.

I had wanted to clear up quietly the mystery of my spotty records. I was consulting responsible SSS personnel, some of them in the public relations department. They tried to help, but they were stymied by the crooks inside.

Their own sleuthing unearthed the fact that somebody had used my name and record to secure benefits!

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IDENTITY THEFT: My SSS friends assured me that their anti-fraud unit was looking into the misuse of my name and record by an impostor.

They expressed confidence their investigators would soon corner and prosecute the perpetrators. “Perpetrators” is plural since a lone operator without insider connection could not do something as complicated as that.

They informed me later, however, that when word got around I was asking questions, the syndicate declared me dead in SSS records! To complete the act, a woman posing as my supposed widow collected the benefits accruing to the estate of a deceased member (me)!

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 8, 2014)

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