Employers comply with their legal obligation to pay their and their employees’ premium contributions to the different Social Security System (SSS) branches posted all over the archipelago. Nonpayment of the same exposes the employers to suits filed against them by the SSS and its affected members.
Suffice it to say that without said premium contributions, the employee cannot avail himself or herself of the benefits, among others, of a salary loan, sickness, maternity, death or disability.
The premium payments, taken together, represent the fund that the SSS invests in stocks, real estate, securities, equities, bonds and bank deposits. These investments made the SSS what it is today in the financial corporate world—one of the biggest and most solvent
To facilitate collection, past SSS administrations contracted with chosen banks under agency agreements to receive the premium contributions with the obligation of remitting the same to SSS coffers within a few days after collection.
The bank partnerships, however, have turned out to be a nightmare for the present SSS commissioners as a number of these agent banks have failed and have been failing to remit to SSS coffers the moneys they received in trust from employers as premium contributions. As of this date, the total amount of premium contributions received by the agent banks, which they failed to remit to the SSS, runs to hundred millions of pesos. Note that their failure to remit, in some cases, has not been only for a week or for months or for a couple of months but for years.
A few newly appointed commissioners want the SSS to sue these banks, considering that the money they received but failed to turn over to the SSS is not lawfully theirs and it is, therefore, their obligation to turn over the same to SSS upon demand or within the timeframe given them by the SSS to remit the money.
Commissioner Gonzalo T. Duque, chairman of the Coverage, Collection and Related Matters Committee, suggested that, before undertaking any appropriate steps, the commission should first entreat the Central Bank to help the parties find a mutually satisfactory solution to the problem. (By the way, Duque, a lawyer and PhD holder twice over, represents the labor sector and was endorsed to his position by the militant Bukluran ng Manggawang Pilipino.)
What so far is holding back the present commissioners to commence appropriate action are the terms and conditions of the agency agreements, capped by restructuring agreements, entered into with the said banks by past SSS administration and past commissioners. From this quandary springs forth the legal issue on whether said agreements are valid and enforceable, considering that, at first glance, they effect an abject surrender of the SSS immediate right of dominion over the unremitted collections, a surrender which is clearly disadvantageous to the SSS and millions of its affected member-employers and member-employees.
A related issue is whether the present set of commissioners are obligated to honor these agreements even if they mean its sanctioning and tolerating the long delay in remitting the workers’ money to the SSS.
Another relevant question is: are the moneys received by the agent banks still in their custody and are still under lock and key or have the banks used or have been using the same for their business ends?
From another angle, the principal issue herein presented (non-remittance by the banks to the SSS of premium payments) is more than meets the eyes. The issue, we believe, is one imbued with public interest.
For one, it involves moneys belonging to workers, a marginalized sector of society, for their insurance needs.
For another, it involves the fiduciary capacity and resoluteness of the SSS to collect and handle with care the premium contributions of its member-employers and -employees.
Understandable should be the apprehension of the present Commissioners that their failure to promptly act on the matter might expose them to charges of negligence some unfortunate day.
All told, the resolution of the matter, or nightmare, or malady, to be more precise, will reveal the mettle, sense of fairness, passion and financial savvy of the present set of SSS commissioners, led by Chairman Amado D. Valdez, a former law dean and illustrious legal practitioner; Vice-Chairman and President Emmanuel F. Dooc, a noted lawyer and a seasoned insurance executive; in addressing pressing SSS concerns and Duque.
Needless to say, in this challenging quest, the two need the support and cooperation of their fellow commissioners Anita Bumpus-Quitain, Michael Regino, Diana Pardo-Aguilar; the Secretary of Labor and Employment or his very competent deputy, Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad; Pompee La Viña, and yours truly.