Calls mount to investigate SSS fiasco

MANILA – A congressman on Tuesday joined a growing number of House members calling for an investigation into the allegations against four Social Security System (SSS) executives involved in the stock trading mess.

Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna made the call after SSS Commissioner Jose Gabriel La Vina filed an administrative complaint against SSS Executive vice president for investments, Rizaldy Capulong; equities investment division chief, Reginald Candelaria; equities product development head, Ernesto Francisco, Jr.; and chief actuary George Ongkeko, Jr.

La Vina alleged that the four are liable for “serious dishonesty and grave misconduct” since some of them used SSS-accredited stock brokers for their own benefit.

Tugna stressed the need to ferret out the truth behind the corruption allegations hounding the state-run pension fund.

“We commend Commissioner La Viña for shedding light on the corrupt practices inside the SSS. The Congress and the SSS leadership should work hand-in-hand for us to be able to get to the bottom of this alleged profiteering scheme of some SSS officials,” Tugna said.

The lawmaker said a congressional probe should be conducted to ensure that acts of malfeasance be dealt with accordingly, noting that possible violations of the anti-graft law and the Securities Regulations Code may have been committed.

“I believe that Congress, through its oversight powers, should investigate the matter and ensure that the hard-earned money of the SSS members were not compromised in this whole fiasco,” he said.

“By investing their own money, not that of the SSS, which have been entrusted to them by virtue of their positions, these SSS officers may have caused undue injury to the government. Our people’s money could have grown and such amounts could be utilized to pay the increased pensions of our retirees from the private sector,” he added.

Tugna noted that the insider trading committed by the stockbrokers and the SSS officers could have “deleterious effects” on the whole system of trading securities and could put into question the government’s capability to implement laws to penalize insider trading.

The SSS currently handles approximately PHP500 billion in assets from the mandatory monthly contribution of private sector employees, self-employed individuals, and overseas Filipino workers.

Tugna urged SSS President Amado Valdez to cleanse their ranks to prevent corruption from seeping through the organization.

“This is an opportune time for Mr. Valdez to show his commitment in eradicating traces of corruption from the agency. If all the allegations are proven to be true, it is high time to sack the concerned individuals,” he added.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel earlier called on the SSS executives involved in the stock trading controversy to “disgorge” all the personal profits they irregularly netted from valuable tips and concessions they obtained from the pension fund’s accredited stockbrokers.

“This is the right thing to do – for them to be constrained to empty out their pockets of their dishonest earnings. Those profits rightfully belong to and should go to the SSS,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel, chairman of the House good government and public accountability committee, reminded SSS officials that they are all mere guardians or trustees of the pension fund’s members.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, for his part, said the Department of Justice (DOJ) should direct the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to issue Immigration Lookout Bulletin Orders (ILBOs) on the four top-level SSS officials.

Meanwhile, a House resolution was filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate calling for a congressional inquiry into the SSS mess.