Rough Cuts | When is the SSS pension hike due?

Davao City’s third district councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, Council Committee on Health chair, is lamenting on reports that the Bureau of Customs Davao District Port is allegedly blocking the release of anesthetics and vaccines.

The lady councilor who is a medical doctor by profession is worried that blocking the entry of injectable drugs might result to the failure to address needs of patients who are at risk of rabies due to dog bites, or the possibility of infection or non-performance of tooth extraction due to the absence of anesthetics.

She manifested her fear that due to lack or absence of these injectable drugs and vaccine it would be difficult for medical practitioners to respond with dispatch to such needs created by the prevalence of the ailments.

At a glance we feel there is reason for the lamentation of the doctor politician. However, with the claim that the drugs are being held at the Customs Bureau Davao Port some questions need to have very satisfying answers.

Are the drugs imported by the government? If they are, then why would government allow one of its agencies to block its entry to the Davao Port when it can be safely assumed that its procurement is done by the Department of Health to implement one of its more important program? Why would the Bureau of Customs hold such shipment of the government when these are supposed to be duty free?

Now it would be a totally different story if the drugs are imported by private suppliers from foreign sources. The importers procure the medicines from foreign manufacturers therefore these drugs are subject to the necessary customs duties and taxes.

These questions must be answered by those who approached councilor Villafuerte for assistance so that the local lawmaker can properly address their problem with the Bureau of Customs and that the councilor would not be placed in a bad light for interfering with the responsibility of a national government tax collection agency.

This report though reminded us of an incident several years ago. A group of Filipinos in Australia donated several units of computers to the Department of Education for use in IT-related classes for public schools. Since the DepEd then has no budget to pay for the corresponding duties and taxes levied on the donation by the Bureau of Customs, the units were for the taking by any division who can pay the duties required. The computers were finally released to the Division of Davao del Norte after the Floirendo-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (TADECO) through the intercession of Ms. Margie Moran Floirendo, paid the required taxes and duties.

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Remember the law granting P2,000 increase in monthly pension pay for retirees from private employment?

Yes, it was the law that was vetoed by former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III because he was convinced by the Board of the Social Security System (SSS) that if such hike in monthly pension would be implemented it would deplete in due time the funds intended for the millions of Filipino pensioners.

The dismay of the pensioners because of that P-Noy veto was changed to jubilation when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in the middle of 2016 and with his political will, prodded Congress to re-introduce the same bill and have it passed again. When it was finally signed into law the first tranche of P1,000 for the P2,000 pension hike, was released starting February of 2017.

The government has committed that the second P1,000 will be released a year after or by next month. And we are certain the pensioners are already eagerly waiting for such manna from the SSS.

Will the SSS be able to fulfill its commitment? Will it release the amount that could help a lot the pensioners in footing their monthly medicine maintenance expenses? We have no idea for now. But what is clear is that no one from the pension firm is talking about it. Even the government is intriguingly silent on whether the second tranche will be given starting next month.

Of course many pensioners we have talked to, believe in the integrity of the present SSS leadership under former law dean Amado Valdez. They are pinning their hope on him and his team.

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