The Social Security System (SSS) on Thursday said more than two million pensioners will benefit from the second tranche of the P1,000 additional benefit that will be released Friday.

In a statement, SSS said P2.07 billion will be released to qualified members.

“We are happy to inform our regular pensioners that the P1,000 additional benefit differential for February 2017 is now deposited in the respective bank accounts of our pensioners. This is the second happy Friday for SSS pensioners,” SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Dooc said.

“From the 2.04 million pensioners for the month of January, almost 30,000 were added in our list for the beneficiaries for February. We are expecting that the number of pensioners who will enjoy the P1,000 additional benefit will continue to increase in the coming months,” he added.

The pension fund released last Friday about P2.04 billion to its pensioners for the January 2017 differential.

The P1,000 additional benefit for the month of March will be given on March 17.

Pensioners under special cases will receive their P1,000 increase on March 31, May 12 and 26. These include death claims with more than one payee and one of them is overpaid; payees with withheld share; Special Pension System, pension with payees under different guardians; and those covered by a Bilateral Social Security Agreement between the Philippines and other countries and the Portability Law.

Also, pensioners on suspended status due to non-compliance with the Annual Confirmation of Pensioners but are up for resumption from January to March will get the additional benefit on March 31, provided they have already reported to SSS for the resumption of their monthly pension.

Pensioners who availed of the advance 18 months retirement pension from August 2015 onwards will receive the additional P1,000 on May 12 to cover the remaining months starting January 2017.

Pensioners with settled initial disability, death and retirement claims from November 2016 to April 2017 as well as those who filed for adjustment in their pension can withdraw their P1,000 on May 12.

“Starting April, all regular pensioners, will receive the updated amount of their pension. This means that their regular monthly pension will automatically increase by P1,000,” Dooc said.
Published in News
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 09:56

Martial law or revolutionary govt?

CONTRARY to what appeared on this page in my last piece, “Thou shall not kill” is the Fifth Commandment rather than the Sixth, according to the Roman Catholic (Augustinian) rendering of the Ten Commandments. It is the Sixth, according the Talmudic version of the same, as used by Hellenistic Jews, Greek Orthodox and Protestants except Lutherans. For this Catholic layman, therefore, it was a blooper pure and simple. My sincerest apologies.

But perhaps some unseen power was trying to tell us something. The degradation of human sexuality, which is the subject of the Sixth Commandment (“Thou shalt not commit adultery”), has become endemic to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. It is now globally asserted, beginning in Donald Trump’s US Christian constituency, that the destruction of the family and marriage is potentially more costly than the massive loss of lives in wars, terrorist attacks and insurgencies. This deserves a separate discussion though.

Quarreling with the press

For now, my concern is the intensity of self-inflicted problems that keep piling up against the seven-month-old Duterte regime. In the US, Donald Trump’s latest fight appears to be with the “dishonest media” which he accuses of not telling the public the truth about his accomplishments. Here, Malacañang seems determined to replicate Trump’s attack on the media with accusations of its own. On Monday, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar accused members of the Senate media of receiving a $1,000 payoff, apiece, to cover the press conference of SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, the latest self-confessed hitman after one Edgar Matobato to accuse President Rodrigo Duterte of having been involved in the killings and bombing of mosques in 1993 when he was still mayor of Davao City.

The implication is that the press conference was a criminal activity that did not deserve to see the light of day, and the Senate media had to be bribed to cover it. The Senate media group has denounced the accusation as completely baseless and slanderous, and Andanar has offered no “smoking gun” to support his charges. The Lascañas accusations are one thing, the conflict with the Senate media is another. Whatever the truth or untruth of the accusations, Andanar’s unsubstantiated accusation puts DU30 in deep sh***t with the press or at least part of the press. This is most unfortunate. Even in the worst adversarial situation between the government and the media, charges like this should be avoided. Mutual respect should be preserved.

With the summary drug killings, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s charges of hidden ill-gotten wealth against the President and his family, the move to railroad in Congress the death penalty, lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old, and limit the number of children per family to the outrage of the public, and questions about DU30’s state of health all piling up on Malacañang’s plate, it is easy to understand why Andanar would rather suppress any further accusations against the President.

But suppressing the news is not the best way of dealing with the problem. The best way to deal with it is to have a convincing response to every accusation hurled by one’s accusers or critics. It is a simple case of making sure one’s narrative is more believable than the accusations and is in fact believed. Since Congress cannot investigate a sitting President, unless and until he has been impeached, what matters is the public believes what the President says.

On the part of Andanar and his colleagues, all that is needed is for them not to try to talk the way DU30 talks, but to try to win the press to their side. If anything, they should try to persuade the President to moderate himself and be more open to his critics. He could learn a few tricks from some of his predecessors, like former President Fidel V. Ramos.

FVR’s critique

Earlier on Monday, Ramos, in an interview at the Samahang Plaridel at the Manila Hotel, gave a running commentary on DU30’s tepid performance on many fronts—his inability to initiate meaningful reform after seven months in office, his inability to sufficiently honor the memory of EDSA 1986, his inability to sustain the peace initiative with the CPP/NPA/NDF, his questionable handling of the nation’s historic ties with old allies in the name of new alliances, his unexplained prolonged disappearances from public view which have provoked speculations about his state of health.

Ramos is a known supporter whom DU30 publicly thanked during his inaugural address for “making him President.” He also served briefly as “special envoy” who facilitated DU30’s diplomatic contacts with China, preparatory to his state visit to Beijing, where he threatened to separate militarily and economically from the US and align himself with China and Russia “against the world.” He has tried to be moderate and gentle in his critique, but being an ally, his gentlest criticism has an impact on the President.

In his interview, Ramos was critical of the reported Malacañang decision to keep the 31st EDSA anniversary celebration (from February 22 to 25) subdued, giving no special recognition to the role of its defenders, both living and dead. For Ramos, who with then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile led the military mutiny against President Ferdinand Marcos, EDSA was one of the watershed moments in the Philippines’ struggle as a sovereign and self-respecting state, comparable to the first cry of revolution at Pugad Lawin in 1896 and the defense of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942, which halted the Japanese invasion of Australia and the islands of the South Pacific. For him it is unforgivable that the full meaning of EDSA should be withheld from the present and future generations of Filipinos—for reasons known only to those in charge at this point.

A lot of loose talk

Indeed, it is difficult to understand why while Malacañang is trying to discourage large crowds from the EDSA celebration, Cabinet Secretary and NDF Vice Chairman Leoncio Evasco Jr.’s “Kilusang Pagbabago”, the communist structure meant to become the principal organ of DU30’s bureaucracy, is said to be mobilizing a mammoth assembly to “Occupy Rizal Park” on February 25.

Some are inclined to speculate that DU30 fears certain elements could make use of the EDSA anniversary as an excuse to mount a massive destabilization effort against him. Some in fact go so far as suggest that a “coup” against DU30 could be attempted.

I view all this as irresponsible talk. The anti-DU30 voices (forces, if you like) are certainly increasing, but I think it is quite foolish to imagine that even if they succeed in forcing DU30 out of office, they have a ready and credible alternative whom the people would welcome and support. Certainly not a military successor, or a Vice President Leni Robredo, whose legitimacy is being questioned before the Supreme Court. I would like to believe that most anti-DU30 critics would like to see DU30 reform and ultimately succeed as a democratic President. But the greater danger, to my mind, is the hidden agenda of Secretary Jun Evasco and his Kilusang Pagbabago and Masa Masid. If their plan is to “Occupy Rizal Park,” while some “yellow groupings” march on EDSA against DU30, what are the chances that at some point the two forces would clash?

And what happens if and when that happens? Shall we have martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or a revolutionary government? Can DU30 afford it?
Published in Commentaries
Saturday, 18 February 2017 10:20

Talking about CHANGE

The specter of the new millennium insidiously hovering above us does not inspire much confidence. Every political nook and cranny are abuzz with talks about change in governance style, social and economic reforms and bureaucratic over-haul as de rigueur of the hour. Yet, we falter. We dilly-dally. We escape into the nitty-gritty of inconsequential pursuits, dabbling on the frivolous, on anything to occupy our pettiness, but the gravest of concerns for the country. Notwithstanding how we try to cocoon ourselves though and persist on a stubborn preference for the dull and ordinary, the factuality of the inevitable is right here in front of us. No escape. We must face what we have to face--else, we perish.

Democratic deficits in all levels and corners are like giant worms consuming the country. Lack of transparency and accountability, prevalence of patronage politics, plunder by the oligarchy, trickle-down technocratic decision making, inadequate people participation, and worse, a political system that favors the moneyed and the influential few.

Almost every day, we witness a restive people joining protest rallies peppering the streets with big questions like why only small fries fry while those perceived to be corrupt are still scot-free. The grapevines are hot with talks about martial law making a comeback, with the dubious Marcos legacy close on its tail and the ‘Yellow’ forces funding and fanning dissent and unrest through its established loyal channels and followers.

A storm is brewing, not the kind triggered by a low pressure area with a tail end on cold front but a burn out citizenry impatient with results: the incarceration of “big fish” politicians, total dismantling of the drug menace, emancipation from abject poverty and deliverance from police ineptitude and corruptibility. But that’s about it, we just talk and talk about all these meaningless talks. And it’s about to blow up in our face.

Should we just live and let live? Should we persist in our apathy and indifference and live up to our name as the ‘sick man’ of Asia? Or are we just waiting to reach rock bottom and convince ourselves there would be no other way to go but up? If we are going nuts and bonkers of these social maladies besetting our country, we know we can’t go beyond our shores to look for the culprit.

Change or whatever it is we hold sacred to redeem us starts with us. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Change is indeed a much-prostituted word. Most if not all administrations have used such slogan. NOW, what is to be done? First, everybody must understand that there is a problem with the current system and form of government. And this reality calls for a major overhaul in politics and bureaucracy. Second, that there is poverty, and this has to be addressed before any meaningful reforms can be effected in our institutions.

Change is coming? I doubt if all we do is talk about it.

Filipinos deserve a First World Philippines.
Published in Commentaries
AFTER decades of struggle in the southernmost Philippine island group, there is a promising chance for peace in Muslim Mindanao. One essential component for enhancing the humanitarian and socio-economic situation of the conflict-affected population in Southern Philippines is open access to political decision-making for everybody. This is crucial in order to cope with the Bangsamoro aspiration for true self-determination but it requires a bottom-up empowerment of citizens involving themselves in membership-based political parties and movements.

So far, the governmental machinery in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) reflects traditional clan- and personality-based politics. The rulers of the ARMM which was created by Republic Act 6734 of 1989 do not deliver the kind of self-determination that the Bangsamoro people strived for so many years. In fact, the political structure of the ARMM reflects the overall presidential form of government in the Philippines. While the region’s executive branch is headed by the regional governor and vice governor, the Regional Legislative Assembly represents the legislative branch of the ARMM government. However, this distribution of power is not in accordance with all the agreements that had been contracted in the past Mindanao peace talks.

A key milestone in the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro political region (FAB) at Malacañang Palace in October 2012. The FAB outlined the road map for replacing the ARMM by a new Bangsamoro political entity that establishes an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government. The Bangsamoro was supposed to be governed by a Basic Law (BBL) and maintain an asymmetric relationship with the central government.

However, it is evident that not much has changed since then. The challenges in passing the BBL in Congress still remain and a Bangsamoro parliament that consists of political party representatives cannot be established. Clans and personalities still play the major role in the politics of Muslim Mindanao as long as the foundations for a new style of politics are being undermined.

A parliamentary set-up could replace the system of patronage and poor governance. Political parties would take on greater significance to clan leaders and other influential personalities.

But this requires the formation of genuine political parties that the electorate can vote for at the regional level. Those political parties need to regard their members—the connecting link to the civil society—as the fundamental part and offer sufficient possibilities for intra-party discussions and formation of opinion. Otherwise, you create a situation that can be observed nationwide: a lack of credible political platforms that reflect a diversity of political ideologies but rather political parties as vehicles for political and business elites.

In order to develop a political identity, the members, who preferably originate from large portions of social groups, must have the capacities on how to organize their party as well as on how to cope with new issues and questions in view of current day-to-day developments and social change. This empowerment through political education needs to be done in order to avoid the domination of political parties by personalities.

Is this bottom-up empowerment of civil society and political parties in the poorest and least economically developed region in the country possible? The answer is yes.

For instance, the MILF has already formed the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) and let its members and inner circle actively participate in existing political training activities. The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) among with its youth wing Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) is already active with a Bangsamoro chapter. Other marginalized civil society and indigenous people’s groups are also active in preparing their organizations for more active political involvement.

In the end, this development of a pluralistic political landscape concomitant with good governance would lead to a stronger and more unified Bangsamoro because of its inclusive approach: both genuine political parties and civil society organizations which are member-based and less personality-based can let people benefit from their programs through incorporating their ideas into politics.

But this news seems to be disregarded by the policymakers in Manila. Lessons from the past have shown that violations of the various peace arrangements have not been beneficial for the entire country. If this trend will just continue as before, social harmony in this part of Southern Philippines cannot be achieved.

The author is Project Manager of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Philippines Office. He is responsible for the implementation of the European Union-funded project “Democratic Party Development Bangsamoro (DEPAdev)”. Prior to joining KAS, Hendrik Mollenhauer was a consultant at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Office Thailand in Bangkok. He holds a master’s degree in economic sociology, having studied at the University of Trier (Germany).

Published in Commentaries
Part 3 of 3

Before the time Candidate Digong came forward with a genius strategy of going for the Presidency with his “urong-sulong,” “now you see him, now you don’t” campaign approach, only a few people have really heard of federalism. I suspected Manila voters were at first indifferent to the idea.
Published in Commentaries

CANBERRA—The first thing President Duterte did after his inauguration was to fly to Davao City to start dismantling the superstructure dominance of “Imperial Manila” as the national capital of the unitary Philippine state for more than 400 years.

Published in Commentaries
A COUPLE of days ago, I stumbled across a pile of books I bought while I was a student of political science in Germany. The questions those books dealt with (and also the thesis I had to write) could be summarized as: “What is good for development and prosperity in democracies?”

Growing up in Germany does not necessarily lead you to believe that everything we have is perfect just because we’re one of the richest countries in the world.
Published in Commentaries
Sunday, 22 May 2016 21:32

Understanding Federalism

Although the topic of federalism has been discussed since the 1971 Constitutional Convention, there are still many areas that are not clear even to political analysts. In the interest of full disclosure, I will state now that I have always been in favor of a federal system of government and I have written several columns in the past about this topic. However, today I want to focus on clarifying certain issues.
Published in Commentaries
Amending our 1987 Constitution is the only way we can begin to fulfill our lofty vision to “build a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace.” Otherwise, our people will conclude that this constitutional vision in the Preamble of our 1987 Constitution “is a myth and a deception.”
Published in Commentaries
Philippine politician Rodrigo Duterte, who has an unbeatable lead in unofficial tallies in the country’s presidential race, will push to rewrite the constitution and change to a federal system of government, his spokesman has said.
Published in News
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