Secretary Romulo Neri has not yet sit in as SSS chairman but news already came out that SSS is being prodded by the Presidential Task Force on Education (of which he is a member) to undertake a program of funding the education of the sons and daughters of SSS members. If this is the future direction of SSS under Neri’s tutelage, then we are witness to the same road that GSIS has taken under Winston Garcia–departing from its essential mandate and subjecting social security funds to government whims and caprices and, possibly, corruption.
GSIS, under Garcia, is already a milking cow and lost most of its investible funds. What is essentially happening here is a variant of the notorious “pyramid scheme” where insufficient new collections from GSIS members are relied upon to answer pension and other payments to retired government employees. GSIS investment funds are tied up with essentially non-liquid investments such as real estate, stocks, and paintings.
Worse, they have been (and are) being used for business takeover bids, such as the one in Meralco and currently the car insurance business–in defiance of government policy of privatization.
The government bid to takeover Meralco, of course, is suspicious in itself because those involved in the Meralco bid are talking of bidding out Meralco–once it is taken over–to private sector. The Cebu-based Garcias and Aboitezes (who owns many Visayas and Mindanao power companies) are close business allies. They are also in Union Bank–the only bank authorized to issue GSIS smart cards to GSIS members.
There are also speculations that recent winners (Razon and you-know-who) in the bidding for Transco found out that they cannot get much out of it if major power distributors like Meralco cannot be forced to get all their power through it. Ironically, the much-maligned IPPs such as the Lopez-owned ones) provide a leveraging alternative to the monopoly that Transco-Napocor combine is.
The educational scholarship program proposed for SSS, on its face, will benefit families of SSS members, particularly college students. Thus, the argument goes, it is still within the mandate of the institution. For two major reasons, this should be vigorously opposed by SSS members. First, it diverts funds for retirement and other direct benefits to SSS members (with families or not). More importantly, it brings government–through CHEd and other social welfare agencies under the Neri-led National Social Welfare Program task force–into SSS decision-making and operations. Where it has no business doing.
If the CHEd educational scholarship program is to be a guide to what will happen, we should be aware of two historical features–not generally known even up to now–of this program. First, this was used in the 2004 presidential elections–along with the more infamous PhilHealth cards to curry votes from the electorate. It can be used again (in the grand tradition of P500 dole-outs to poor power consumers) to lull opposition to the hopelessly unpopular GMA administration. Second, the constituencies of GMA political allies (congressional and local) were the ones who got the bulk of these scholarships as determined by a list prepared by Malacañang itself.
Corruption is a constant suspicious companion in these political decisions. In this particular moment of political transition to a post-GMA era, the people in her administration are all over the economic landscape, trying to make hay while the sun has not yet set.
As an SSS member myself, I could only echo the just-kicked out SSS president Cora dela Paz message to all SSS members–be vigilant, be very, very vigilant. Your social insecurity may already be just around the corner.
Nobody wants to be like the retiree of GSIS or AFPSLAI–old but not secure in their old age.