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A tale of two pension funds DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 09/02/2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

A tale of two pension funds

Herman Tiu Laurel
Two pension funds dominate the skyline of social security in the Philippines: The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) with its 1.5 million members and the massive Social Security System (SSS) that serves 29 million workers in the private sector.

The SSS is celebrating its 54th anniversary this year and various festivities are set to mark the occasion, from special benefits for members to an awards ceremony cum tribute to journalists. But to me, through all its 54 years, it was in the past 10 years that the SSS distinguished itself when it surmounted adverse political and financial challenges arising from what many see as unprecedented corruption under Gloria Arroyo. Its older sister, the GSIS, wasn’t as fortunate as it was overwhelmingly damaged by the worst political and financial abuses of the past decade.

The SSS’ 29 million members, along with its thousands of staff and employees, indeed have good reason to celebrate today: At the start of the Arroyo era in 2001 came an immediate existential challenge when the newly-appointed leadership mounted an attempt to initiate the fund’s privatization. The SSS union, the Active and Concerned Employees of the SSS or AcceSSS, staged daily lunch time pickets (which I joined) in front of SSS offices nationwide and succeeded in ousting the Malacañang-appointed “privateer.” If privatization pushed through, the SSS could have faced the same fate as many privatized pension funds all over the world — enticed into the heady and freewheeling private sector financial speculation that unraveled in the 2008 financial collapse. The SSS, in staying public, was thus more conservative and preserved itself.

Also to their credit, active employee-leaders of the SSS put on a brave and militant face against the Arroyo administration, which led the latter to tread carefully in appointing the next administrator.

Fortunately, the new administrator kept herself within the strictures of sound management. It was not until the last appointment made by Arroyo in the wake of the ZTE-NBN scandal that the peace at the SSS was broken.

In all, while the pension fund cruised through 2002 to 2009 successfully, trouble brewed and persisted at the GSIS. A political appointee was entrenched by the past government to head the state pension fund. Without any known credentials, this political scion enthroned at the GSIS proceeded to establish his fiefdom; discriminated against career officers; and redirected GSIS policies to disastrous results.

One of the first things that the then newly-installed GSIS administration did was to “privatize” the P20-billion fund, by transferring its deposits from the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines to the Union Bank of the Aboitizes. As the latter had only a tenth of the number of ATMs of Land Bank, this severely inconvenienced GSIS members, notwithstanding the clear violation of the law requiring all government funds to be deposited in government banks. After this, many GSIS programs were also redirected on the pretext of building up the fund’s financial resources, but which redounded to reduced benefits.

The GSIS union, in the wake of imagined euphoria post-Edsa II, first attempted a dialog with management but was faced with intransigence and hostility. To cover up this increasing tension, bigwigs at the GSIS purportedly increased their media budget tenfold to paint a rosy picture. Union leaders were eventually fired; and they are still waiting for justice and restoration to this day.

Unlike the GSIS, SSS staff and employees, along with their roster of members from the private sector, were all impervious to the political machinations of Malacañang. The militancy of the SSS union put the Malacañang appointee on the spot very early on.

While a balance of power at the SSS helped maintain adherence to sound management and financial policies, the concentration of power at the GSIS led to alleged massive abuse of its funds.

These abuses at the GSIS ultimately led to the $1-billion investment in Wall Street schemes that caused it hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in the 2008 crash. The present GSIS management recently reported pulling out of these investments. But, without any prosecution in the offing and with nobody knowing how much the past GSIS administration lost in that Wall Street bloodbath, isn’t this just papering over past misdeeds?

On the other hand, the SSS rose from the dark Arroyo decade clean and strong. Kudos to its management, professional staff, and thousands of employees for this. I look forward to my retirement age in a few months’ time, knowing that my contributions are wisely managed. As professionalism and alert union activism have been key to maintaining a healthy SSS, we’ll always be in support of these. To the media affairs office of the SSS, our congratulations for your continued support of information freedom! That is a supreme evidence of the kind of professionalism SSS management is known for.

(My new e-mail: mentong2011@gmail.com. Tune in to Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m. on 1098AM; Talk News TV with HTL, Saturday, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 8, on “The ALBA: A Latin American Revolution” with Ambassadors Manuel Perez-Iturbe of Venezuela and Juan Carlos Arencibia Corrales of Cuba; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)
(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110902com6.html

Straight path, stalled economy EDITORIAL 09/02/2011

Straight path, stalled economy

Click to enlarge
The economy is losing steam with the second quarter growth slowing to 3.4 percent from a year ago based on data the government released the other day.

While the government had claimed, as in the past, that global factors played a big part in the slowdown, the more plausible cause of the screeching economy, however, is the administration’s underspending that has extended all the way up until July which in turn resulted in a capital vacuum during the period.

Latest data also showed that industrial output had contracted during the period, likely as a result of poor government spending.

The administration of Noynoy, taking the claimed self-righteous path, has been holding back on fund releases, subjecting allocations supposedly for review and at the same time implementing a tedious zero budget scheme that releases government resources only as needed, leading to huge delays since this process also faces the usual red tape..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110902com1.html

Two peas in a pod? FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 09/02/2011

Two peas in a pod?

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
Ping Lacson is overly fixated on the Arroyos and has used the Senate as his forum to get even with them, mainly due to the Arroyos having painted him as a criminal, but also perhaps because Lacson is also using these so-called exposés of his in a bid to re-image himself and shed that image of himself as a law breaker after he fled the country to evade the law.

He still stands accused of having falsified a public document, i.e., his travel document, as the government authority in this instance, the Department of Foreign Affairs, has already declared that the travel papers that Lacson used in coming home were bogus.

But, as Lacson belongs to the KKK (kaibigan, kaklase, kabarilan) circle of Noynoy Aquino, there has been no move on the part of the Aquino administration to charge him with the crime.

From the time he returned to his Senate seat, Lacson many times over has come up with his “exposés,” even as he fails to produce solid evidence. He even admits that he has no evidence with which to support his allegations..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110902com2.html

Post 9/11, some Muslims pray in Christian churches focus 09/02/2011

Post 9/11, some Muslims pray in Christian churches


ALEXANDRIA — In a Catholic church located in the shadow of Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington, the first US President, a group of Muslim faithful roll out their prayer rugs each week and kneel to pray to Allah.

Polls show that Islam in the United States is mistrusted and associated with violence, and Christian churches actively helping Muslims remain the exception ten years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Yet inspired by their reading of Biblical passages, some US Christians are increasingly reaching out to the Muslim community.

“People true to their Christian faith try to achieve peace in the world,” said Fr. Tom Ferguson at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. “Hospitality is the first step toward getting to know one another.”

Hundreds of area Muslims have been meeting at a hall in his church since August to pray while their new mosque is being built..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110902com3.html

Teleradyo NO HOLDS BARRED Armida Siguion-Reyna 09/02/2011


Armida Siguion-Reyna
News that kept older people sane and focused during World War II came from underground radio broadcasts that we younger ones could not source. We only knew our elders were up-to-date on who was landing when on what gulf where, we didn’t understand how they knew what they knew. It was only after Liberation that I realized my father was a ham radio operator helping spread correct information to the guerrilas.

Television in the 50s was still in black-and-white, with very little original programming. It took some time for TV to develop an audience; rich and poor were hooked on the radio for news and entertainment. There was pop music and classical music, the range was anywhere from Sinatra to Strauss. Soap operas made the day for the typical housewife, radio dramas so named because its main sponsors were soap manufacturers. The tag just caught on, even “Reyna ng Vicks” was classified as a soap opera. Lina Flor’s “Gulong ng Palad” and Liwayway Arceo’s “Ilaw ng Tahanan” were among the most popular and highly-rated soaps, as was “Dr. Ramon Selga.”

There were sitcoms. The Pugo-Bentot and Dolphy-Panchito tandems were born on radio. Dolphy, at one time, had eight radio sitcoms going on at the same time, more shows than there were days in a week. Advice programs, too. We knew Dely Magpayo, those younger than her also called her Tiya Dely..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110902com4.html

A word from Nileema Mishra C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S Jonathan De la Cruz 09/02/2011

A word from Nileema Mishra

Jonathan De la Cruz
Nileema Mishra, 39, this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Emergent Leadership has a lot to say about dole outs. The Indian activist who has been involved in helping the poor and the marginalized in the village of Bahadarpur in her native Indian state of Maharashtra has long advised that they should not depend on government dole outs to get out of their miserable conditions. From her early teens she had been at the forefront of that movement urging the “poorest of the poor” to “trust themselves, come together and should not quit,” and, more importantly, work hard and persistently to move out of their situation and be self-sufficient.

Well, 11 years after establishing her NGO called Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan (Sister Nivedita Rural Science Center) in Bahadarpur she has proven the potency of that maxim: Work, not dole out, is the key to survival and success. The center is not only a teaching institution instilling the necessary skills and values to the marginalized, but it has become an organizing one getting people to work together and explore avenues for self-help and productive endeavors.... MORE
SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110902com5.html

Kenney an embarrassment to US — Erap 09/02/2011

Kenney an embarrassment to US — Erap

Former President Joseph Estrada yesterday called former US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney “an embarrassment to the American government as she forgot the American ideals of democracy” in an angry reaction to a secret cable published by anti-secrecy Web site Wikileaks.

Estrada assailed Kenney, who stepped down as US ambassador to Manila last year, after she criticized the late President Corazon Aquino as only a “partial icon of morality.”

“This report shows that in her efforts to defend GMA (then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo’s initials), she deliberately misled the American government from seeing that former President Cory Aquino and our people were fighting for a real democracy for our country,” Estrada, in a statement, noted.

He said the assessment of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is on the dot, as Del Rosario was quoted as saying that Kenney was “a dismal failure” as an ambassador to the Philippines..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110902hed3.html

Ping threatens De Lima with CA rejection By Angie M. Rosales 09/02/2011


Ping threatens De Lima with CA rejection

By Angie M. Rosales 09/02/2011

Sen. Panfilo Lacson is using his veto power, or Section 20 of the Senate rules, on the confirmation of presidential appointees to coerce Department of Justce (DoJ) chief to file charges against former President Gloria Arroyo and her spouse, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, and issue them their warrants of arrest, despite the lack of evidence, or face a rejection before the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Lacson said he is willing to withdraw his opposition to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima before the CA once she issues a warrant of arrest against the Arroyos.

The senator, before reporters, expressed exasperation over what he noted as slow moving action of the Justice department over issues of alleged irregularities of the previous administration despite efforts by various sectors, including lawmakers, to secure evidence that has been exposed so far and yet no case had been filed before the proper courts.

“Do they expect evidence to come before them? They should take initiatives. It’s been 14 months (since the Aquino administration came to power). What she has been doing is to go after me and continue questioning my travel documents instead of going after the big things. The sense of priorities is misplaced,” he said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110902hed1.html

EU welcomes RP ratification of Rome Statute By Michaela P. del Callar 09/02/2011

EU welcomes RP ratification of Rome Statute

By Michaela P. del Callar 09/02/2011

The European Union yesterday welcomed the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute that created an international tribunal that will try war crimes and genocide.

Catherine Ashton, high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice president of the commission, said Manila’s accession to the treaty “confirmed its commitment to the rule of law” locally and globally.

“I warmly welcome the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by the Philippines on Aug. 30 and congratulate the government of the Philippines for their achievement,” Ashton said in a statement from the EU headquarters in Brussels.

On Tuesday, the Philippines, through its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, deposited the Instrument of Ratification for the ICC at the UN, a week after it was ratified by the Philippine Senate. It will enter into force in the country on Nov. 1..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110902nat2.html

Review of Dangerous Drugs Act sought By Gerry Baldo 09/02/2011

Review of Dangerous Drugs Act sought

By Gerry Baldo 09/02/2011

A lawmaker from Bicol yesterday sought a review of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 following the acquittal of two of the so-called Alabang Boys who were charged in connection with a drug abuse case.

According to Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. there is a need to review the law governing dangerous drugs and the problems and challenges in the law enforcement aspect of the anti-drug campaign.

“Despite the noteworthy efforts and activism of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the conviction of suspected drug criminals is a cause of concern because of the alarming rate of conviction, which according to the Department of Justice (DoJ) is only one percent,” Garbin said.

Garbin, a member of the House committee on dangerous drugs, noted the importance of the review that hopes to address data from PDEA, which revealed that only 35 convictions came out from 12,381 total number of drug cases filed in 2008..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110902nat1.html

MIAA keeps close watch on entry of Avian Flu 09/02/2011

MIAA keeps close watch on entry of Avian Flu

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has stepped up its efforts in preventing the possible entry of the H5N1 Avian Influenza virus which recently had been reportedly mutated to a more resistant strain.

As a precaution, the airport management instructed all its medical staff to be on heightened readiness and surveillance for possible carriers of the virus.

Possible carriers may have fever, dry cough, runny nose, headache, diarrhea and difficulty in breathing, according to MIAA chief Jose Angel Honrado.

Since the virus first appeared in 2003, there had been 565 people infected with 331 deaths. The latest death was reported last month in Cambodia where eight human infections were reported this year that were all fatal.

The medical screeners manning the thermal scanners at the arrival concourses were also instructed to be more vigilant, especially when processing arriving passengers coming from countries still affected by the avian flu virus..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110902met3.html

Stop reclamation projects in Manila Bay, SC asked By Benjamin B. Pulta 09/02/2011

Stop reclamation projects in Manila Bay, SC asked

By Benjamin B. Pulta 09/02/2011

Militant groups have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop reclamation activities along Manila Bay.
In their six-page manifestation with motion for clarification, leaders of Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano also asked SC Chief Justice Renato Corona and 14 other SC justices to clarify the scope, coverage, subject and extent of its landmark decision to clean up Manila Bay and issue a definitive ruling on whether reclamation and privatization projects undertaken along its foreshore area are allowable or in consonance with the ruling.

The Anakpawis party-list congressman, along with Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente, Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap and vice chairman Salvador France, and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog chairman Pedro Gonzalez said activities like reclamation and dumping of toxic wastes in Manila Bay should be discontinued to ensure the success of the clean-up, rehabilitation and protection of Manila Bay and so as not render the landmark decision naught and useless..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110902met1.html

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