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How to make role of labor effective in SSS and GSIS
(Article published in the April 23, 2001 issue of TODAY, Business Section)

When Social Security System (SSS) chairman and president Vitaliano Nanagas II candidly admitted that the SSS lost some P8 billion of the P50 billion pesos it had invested in publicly listed stocks and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) president and general manager Winston Garcia publicly ranted against the Gos of Equitable PCI Bank for "wanting to control the bank without taking responsibility for its indecisiveness", they merely confirmed an open secret- In the investment of the workers’ funds, the real owners are to be treated like children.

In the investment of SSS and GSIS funds, which officialdom piously affirms every first of May as truly owned by their members, the workers are to be seen and not heard. They are not to have an effective voice on where their money should be placed, how much should be invested in specific outlets, how long the placements should be kept, and when they should be cashed in.

The operative word is "effective".

Sure, legal provisions abound giving workers representation in the affairs of the pension funds, The SSS is under the direction and control of a Commission three of whom are required by law to be chosen among nominees of the workers they represent (Sec. 3, R.A. No. 1161). The GSIS, on the other hand, is under a board of trustees, one of whom is required to be either the President of the Philippine Public School Teachers Association or the President of the Philippine Association of School Superintendents and another two representing the leading organizations or associations of government employees/retirees (Sec. 42, R.A. No. 8291).

The legal theory is that representation in the governing body is sufficient assurance of protection in the level of the concrete acts affecting the workers’ interest.

But legal theory has never been famous for accurately predicting, or even depicting, what goes on in practice. On the contrary, actual practice, as shown by the recent past, is often opposite of legal theory.

According to the affidavit of Chuckie Arellano, SSS head under the previous administration, it was not the workers’ voice that was heard but Erap’s, saying "Gusto ko mag-invest kayo ni Ding (referring to Federico Pascual of GSIS), bumili kayo ng Belle (referring to Belle Corporation)".

Ding Pascual, in his own sworn statement, not only confirmed receiving the same instructions from above but also revealed that it was Erap’s "wish" that the Belle "purchases by both GSIS and SSS be coordinated". As for the workers, sit down please and be quiet.

But if the workers are truly the owners of the SSS and GSIS funds, then it is imperative that the participation of workers be pushed beyond the governing boards down to the level of, at least, the investments, loans, audit, and compliance committees.

By law and not by mere regulation or board action, at least one of the workers’ representatives in the SSS Commission and in the GSIS Board of Trustees must be made a member in each of these crucial committees so that the workers’ inputs can be contributed and its views ventilated right where the specific investment decisions are made, evaluated or examined.

A statutory amendment is necessary, instead of an internal resolution within the systems, in order to permanently institutionalize workers’ participation, putting it beyond the reach of passing fancies of changing administrations.

But workers’ membership in the crucial investment committees does not guaranty their active and meaningful participation, much less assure the protection of labor’s interest.

Graft and greed are very democratic viruses, capable of infecting the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the master and the slave. But if the worker representatives in the investment decision-making process were to sell out their kind, then at least we would know how much, in inflated pesos or dollars, thirty pieces of silver can fetch nowadays.