FOR about an hour or so, President Duterte briefly bonded with the Social Security System (SSS) employees and some members and pensioners during the celebration of its foundation anniversary on September 6. The affair, where Duterte delivered a 20-minute extemporaneous speech, was held at the SSS main offices at East Avenue, Quezon City.
The presidential presence was magical and memorable to the 500 or so members of the audience, led by the SSS commissioners and vice presidents and managers, who watched and listened to their idol.
To SSS members and pensioners, his visit was a momentous occasion because he is the father of the P2,000 pension increase. Granting the pension increase was one of his campaign promises, and he fulfilled it in no time at all. Talking about how he approved the increase, he revealed that he okayed it after a two-hour debate in his January 2017 Cabinet meeting. It seemed that the proposal was meeting a rough sailing because the Cabinet members feared of a dangerous shortening of the lifespan of SSS funds, but he dispelled their fears by saying that we should trust the next generation, who will be competent enough to address any expected shortfall.
The President said:
“That’s why the most contentious moment in the Cabinet regarding the SSS, when we were debating whether to allow the increase. At the end of the day, I stopped them all because we’re already arguing for two hours.
“Sabi ko, ladies and gentlemen, this is my stand. We have a problem in our generation.
“Then there is this computation about 2040, an aberration in the system…. We will solve the problem of our generation. Let tomorrow take care of itself.
“Ang mga anak natin, may mga utak ’yan. Then how to continue is no longer our problem.
“Bigyan mo ako ng computation hanggang 2040. Of course, may mag-object talaga—the economics people—Sonny Dominguez, and I have to be very frank with you, si Pernia and si Diokno….
“But Dean Valdez wrote me a letter and said, ‘Ang bukas hindi atin, kanila na ’yan, and they will solve the problem by themselves.’”
The rest is history. Right now, millions of SSS members are enjoying a P1,000 pension increase. The pensioners now have more money to spend on their medicines and other needs. The next P1,000, to complete the promised P2,000, will come four years or less from now, depending on the availability of funds.
The President during his speech also revealed a secret, which he shared with the audience. While riding airplanes on Manila-Davao; Davao-Manila routes, as a student and then as incumbent Mayor, he said that the thought kept coming to his mind as he watched from the plane the view of the shanties and the subdivision houses below, that one day he would rule the country.
The President said:
“May gusto akong—I don’t know if it has happened to you—from time to time, Christmas vacation, semestral break, araw ng patay, umuuwi talaga kami to pay homage to the ancestors.
“But in the so many flights na Davao-Manila, Manila-Davao, it could be…. Hindi naman thousands, hundreds, all these years…. Dumadaan ako ng Manila. And, sometimes, because it is too constricted because we only have one airport, one radar and everything. Minsan umiikot ’yung eroplano. Would you believe it? Ito totoo talaga ito.
“Tinignan ko, sabi ko: May feeling ako na I will one day rule this place. Nung naging mayor ako, sinabi ko doon sa asawa ko na may feeling ako na…. I have this eerie or queer feeling, whatever, na one day, I will rule this.
“Sabi nila, ‘Gusto ko, pero minus the problem.’ Kita mo ’yang…. Makikita mo dito, squatters’ area, ang laki. Then you have this magandang subdivisions, then another corner, nandiyan na naman ’yung mahirap.”
His message to the SSS officials and employees was brief but
“To the SSS management and personnel: You are in a unique position to directly impact the lives of our people through the service you provide.
“Through the work that you do everyday, you manage and maintain a sound and viable Social Security System, which shall provide social justice and promote meaningful protection for members and their families against disability, sickness, maternity, old age, death and other contingencies resulting in the loss of income and financial burden.
“May this occasion remind us that our work force is the backbone of our society, and their welfare is our primary concern.
“Let us work together in empowering them so that they may help us in building the foundation of a brighter and more secure future, especially for the marginalized.
“Happy anniversary, at mabuhay kayong lahat!”