P12B SSS ‘stimulus package’ probed

SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday filed Senate Resolution 850 directing the committee on government corporations and public enterprises to investigate the plan to channel P12.5 billion in Social Security System funds for the government’s “economic resiliency plan.”
“To use the hard-earned money of its members to finance the government’s programs for the poor as well as to help private companies tide over the consequences of the financial crisis is nothing more but a slap in the faces of the 27 million SSS members who are being cheated of what is rightfully theirs,” Lacson said.

Lacson also voiced suspicions that the P12 billion may eventually find its way to administration coffers for the 2010 elections.

Lacson said the SSS’ main function as decreed by its charter is to extend social security protection to workers and their beneficiaries.

SSS president Romulo Neri had said the pension fund will “contribute” P12.5 billion to the P330-billion economic stimulus fund of the Arroyo administration.

Neri said the SSS funds may be allocated to products with sovereign guarantee as provided in its charter.

Lacson reminded Neri that the SSS administration’s “first and foremost” duty is to protect the interest and welfare of its members, who in the first place are the source of its funds.

Lacson noted that Neri’s predecessor, Corazon dela Paz, had urged all SSS members to be vigilant against groups and individuals who may want to use their pension funds especially “for an agenda not legally allowed under the SSS Charter.”

Assistant House minority leader Rep. Liza Maza said Neri is gambling away the hard-earned money of the SSS members in committing P12.5 billion of its reserve funds.

“If indeed Neri thinks the P12.5 billion SSS funds is good investment, he should subject his decision to a vote among SSS members. The fund is from the private workers’ pockets and they have all the right to decide what should be done with their funds,” she said.

Maza said Neri has no credibility in assuring the SSS members that the investment would redound to more benefits for them.

“With Neri’s role in the anomalies behind the ZTE-NBN deal, his moral authority to give such commitments and pronouncements is very questionable,” she said.

Malacañang said it has not yet set up the P100 billion public-private sector infrastructure fund component of the P330 billion economic stimulus package.

The stimulus program was supposed to be implemented in the first half of the year.

Outgoing Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the Cabinet is just finishing the details on how to implement the P100 billion infrastructure fund with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and how to get it going.

House majority leader Arthur Defensor (Iloilo) lashed at critics of the economic stimulus package saying they are using the issue as a political vehicle.

Defensor stressed the economic stimulus is ‘badly needed’ by the country to ride out the adverse effects of the global financial meltdown. – Regina Bengco, Wendell Vigilia and Peter J. G. Tabingo(Malaya)

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