Be part of the solution, not the problem: SSS Commissioner Duque

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As I See It

BY ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

Following the words of St. Francis of Assissi sowing love in times of distrust, Social Security System (SSS) Commissioner Dr. Gonzalo Duque, in his closing statement during his official trip to the Bay Area lately, said “Let’s not be part of the problem, let’s be part of the solution!”

I think he used St. Francis’ practice of a life of peace and love in his closing statement during the mini-press conference he held last Friday at the house of former Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, because he would like to emulate his life practices during this time of distrust and hate in our society. St. Francis was a man of peace, a man of poverty, and a man who loved and protected creation, which to him, would be good example in running our affairs in society as we look at ourselves to “walk our talk” in whatever we do, especially in running the affairs of the government.

“If we take a moment to look at our life and ask our self if we are truly practicing our spirituality, many of us will find that we fall short. When in doubt however, it might help to look at the life of one who has succeeded in walking the talk. From the life of Saint Francis, we can learn where to make a few adjustments to truly become more spiritual, particularly in the forms of love (kindness) and humility (simplicity)—two of the primary manifestations of really walking the talk,” according to the article about the life of St. Francis.

Dr. Gonzalo Duque is with the idea that the Prayer of Saint Francis should prevail in our lives, and also in our society: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.”

He brought this out when the issue of conflict of interest case with his brother Dr.Salvador Duque, Secretary of Health, was touched as leveled by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

He said that his brother can very well defend himself, but in a similar case against his brother in the plunder complaint filed against the Health Chief by parents of children suspected to have been victims of the Dengvaxia vaccine, he was himself implicated and charged for commenting on the conflict of interest case against his brother. Just like his brother, he is in paper, listed as a member of the Board of the University their parents/family founded and that’s what makes them liable allegedly of the conflict of interest issue.

Just like the other case, he said that very soon the Dengvaxia case will likewise be dismissed because of the “complete staff work” doctrine which was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Gonzalo was implicated and was likewise charged with plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman due to his reactions/comments invoking the “Arias doctrine”, a response against Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, Chief, Public  Attorney’s  Office  (PAO) allegations filed by parents of victims of Dengvaxia vaccine.

“Sorry I have to react to that… but that is already water under the bridge,” said Duque addressing his comments to Lacson and all concerned. “I am willing to reconcile with Sen. Lacson and be part of the solution, not the problem and work with him with extra mile,” Duque said.

As to his official mission here vis-à-vis the new law covering Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), SSS is strengthening their offices abroad in order to implement smoothly the new law. He just came from the inauguration of the new office in New York and he is working on the rest of the offices here in Northern and Southern California.

“The new Social Security System (SSS) law will ensure that the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will have a decent nest egg when they retire,” Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises said lately.

The new law (RA 11199) provides that “coverage in the SSS shall be compulsory upon all sea-based OFWs: provided that they are not over 60 years of age.” The new law was signed by President Duterte on February 7, 2019.

So, under the new law, sea-based OFWs will be considered as regular employed members of SSS. Their contributions will be collected and remitted to the SSS by their manning agencies, which are agents of their principals and are considered as the employers of the sea-based OFWs. Before, their contributions were voluntary, not compulsory.

The government aims to extend better social security protection to Filipinos here and abroad under a new law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, author Genalyn Kabiling said in her article New SSS law to extend better social security protection for Filipinos.

Under the new law, it also empowers the commission to raise benefits, condone penalties, and rationalize investments, among others. according to Duque. When asked when the second P1, 000.00 pension be released, he said that the next P1, 000 additional pension will still be determined as soon as the new law stabilizes. In fact there was a little flaw in the first P1, 000 increase but was already addressed in the two-year span, Duque said.

When asked, Duque said the P2, 000 pension increase did not affect the fund life because these were all considered when they announced the increase. It’s just a matter of time and the fund will not be depleted and will not affect members who are retiring anytime. They have enough funds to cover their retirements.

All these will be normalized as soon as their automation program of services will be completed in three years, Duque ended.

So, can we be part of the solution, not the problem?

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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