February 1, 2010
Members of the party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) picketed the main office of the Social Security System in protest at the plan of SSS President Romulo Neri to channel P12.5 billion of SSS funds to the economic stimulus package of the Arroyo administration.
Chanting “Neri, Gloria: Hands off our funds!” and “Additional workers benefits not more GMA projects is the right stimulus plan!” some 50 workers from PM gathered at the East Avenue office of SSS around 10 a.m.
Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson, argued that “It is not just illegal but illegitimate for Neri to divert billions in SSS funds to infrastructure projects that will benefit capitalists first and workers last, if at all. A pro-labor stimulus plan must put money in workers hands through additional SSS benefits for workers, including an unemployment subsidy for displaced SSS members.”
The group also revealed that they are studying the option of filing a class suit of SSS members against Neri for the alleged fund diversion. The workers also voiced support for Senate Resolution 850 directing the committee on government corporations and public enterprises to investigate the plan to channel the P12.5 billion for the government’s "economic resiliency plan."
Among the protesters were workers who are SSS members with complaints about their benefits. Among them is Tomas Piroy, a resident of Tanza, Cavite but who works as a security guard in Paranaque. Piroy recently secured a loan from SSS but objects to the P200 service charge automatically deducted from his loan. “The SSS is our money yet we are charged for accessing our benefits,” Piroy stated.
Dennis Sequena, leader of PM in Cavite raised the prospect that due to the lack of transparency and corruption in the administration, “Workers funds might be used for the electoral campaign of the regime-backed candidates if not of GMA herself in Pampanga. Neri is apparently confused that as administrator of the SSS money his real boss is the workers who have put their hard-earned money in the insurance fund not GMA who wants to dip her hands in the piggy bank of the working class.”
He added that “If instead of funding infrastructure projects, the P12.5 billion in SSS funds is used as unemployment subsidy for workers laid off due to the economic crisis, then some 200,000 will benefit. This will be enough to cover the 40,000 laid off, according to the conservative figures of the DOLE, since the start of the global recession and the tens of thousands more to be displaced in the coming months and years as the economic crisis shows no sign of abating.” PM is pushing for an unemployment subsidy at the minimum wage rate of P10,000 for up to six months for workers who are recently displaced.