The shadow of their smiles

The Social Security Commission works as the policy-making body of the Social Security System (SSS). It acts collegially. It checks the decisions and recommendations of SSS vice presidents and department managers, who constitute the management. Major management decisions, especially those requiring financial allocations, cannot be implemented without the approval of the Commission.

The present Commission is chaired by former University of the East dean, lawyer Amado D. Valdez. Former Insurance Commissioner lawyer Emmanuel F. Dooc is the president. In order to facilitate its policy-making and related functions, the Commission has activated seven working and research committees, notably, the Investments Oversight Committee, chaired by Commissioner Pompee La Viña, a successful businessman and social-media wizard; the Information Technology (IT) Committee, which is principally tasked to make the SSS IT-savvy and chaired by Commissioner Diana Pardo-Aguilar; the Media Affairs Committee, also chaired by Commissioner Pompee La Viña; the Audit Committee, chaired by Commissioner Anita Bumpus-Quitain; the Membership Committee, chaired by Comm. Gonzalo Duque; the Risk Management Committee, chaired by Commissioner Michael Regino; and the Governance, Organization and Appointments Committee (GOAC) chaired by yours truly.

Ideally, all management policies and decisions regarding facets of administration, including the movements, notably, appointments, promotions and discipline of employees are reviewed by the GOAC before they are confirmed by the Commission en banc.

The chairman of the GOAC and the other committees were handpicked by Valdez. On the other hand, memberships in the committees are determined on a volunteer basis. A Commissioner is given the privilege to choose the committee he or she wants to be a member of.

I willingly accepted the chairmanship of the GOAC, secretly admiring Valdez about his psychic ability to have perceived my interest in the handling of matters and concerns relating to employment. But maybe, just maybe, he chose me to be chairman of the GOAC because of my long stint as labor arbiter of the National Labor Relations Commission, where I resolved dismissal and money-claims cases filed by workers against their employers.

As GOAC chairman, the first thing that came to my mind was the millions of SSS members, particularly those disabled and near-retirees who need all the empathy of the SSS public servants. Are we serving our members well enough? Why do I hear complaints about long delays in the processing of death claims? Why do I hear about rude SSS personnel?

As GOAC chairman, I was burdened to think of ways of improving SSS services. A visiting friend from the United States advised me, “Arch, why don’t you render your service to your members with a smile? It will cost your employees nothing, but it will gain for the SSS a lot of goodwill,” she told me. Her name is Hatima Saul Centi, who works as a nurse in New Jersey.

She was right.

So, with all good intention in mind and in heart, in aid of policy-making, I decided to check on the SSS branches, nearly 200 of them, scattered all over the archipelago. My first target branch was SSS Guadalupe, headed by Hoechst Potato. I ordered two of my staff to go undercover and check the services of the branch. I was impressed with the report of my staff. The counter employees of the branch were all cordial and friendly, entertaining the needs and plaints of the members. Everyone was friendly and smiling as they talked with SSS clientele. When the report reached Valdez, he readily promised to give the branch a personal reward donation of P5,000.

The same went true with my second target branch, the Malolos Branch. The branch recently won the five-star distinguished service award from the Civil Service Commission, thanks to its branch manager, Francisco Paquito L. Lescano, and the employees therein who are caring and compassionate to members, particularly the senior citizens, the mayayabang and the makukulit ones.

My third target branch was a disaster. Due to complaints I had personally received that the counter employees in this branch were not friendly to inquiring members and the general public, I ordered two of my staff to go undercover and check on the veracity of the complaints. Nobody was smiling, my staff reported. My female staff was even reported as mayabang. My order to her was really to act mayabang to provoke the counter employees to see if they were understanding enough to accommodate the mayayabang and makukulit inquirers.

Will I go on with my mission? Will I just be courting the ire of managers and employees who do not want to freely give their smile or leave its shadow to foul-smelling widows in dirty slippers and dusters who braved sun and rain to inquire about the delayed death benefit of their deceased husbands?

The wit that concocted the sign “Bawal Ang Nakasimangot” certainly knows the comforting effect of a smile, especially coming from a civil servant. Indeed, the smile will linger in the member’s mind, its shadow becoming an unforgettable and memorable embrace of love and compassion for a more positive SSS image.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

Martin Frankel: A story of insurance fraud

Next Article

Kung fu wisdom

Related Posts

Farm sector needs long-term solutions

A weather phenomenon that means “little boy” in Spanish is threatening to upend the country’s rice sector. State weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) warned that El Niño could develop this year and affect the country in the second half of 2023. This means that certain areas would see below-normal rainfall in July to December, when rice farmers are expected to harvest their main crop.