MANILA – The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill granting an across the board Php2,000 increase in the monthly pension of the Social Security System (SSS) pensioners.

Voting 15-1, the Senate passed House Bill No. 5842 or the Social Security Act, seeking to amend Section 12 of Republic Act 1161 or the Social Security Act of 1997.

Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile voted against the passage of the bill, saying the granting of the ‘generous benefit’ to the estimated 1.9 million pensioners would eventually lead to the “bankruptcy” of the SSS.

”We should not allow our future generation inherit a bankrupt SSS,” the 91-year-old Enrile said.

House Bill 5842 was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Cynthia Villar, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto and Senators Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Chiz Escudero, Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada, Ferdinand “Bongbong Marcos Jr. and Deputy Minority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto,III.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises and principal sponsor of the bill, said “given the rising cost of living, it is high time we give our retirees and their family a monthly pension that will allow them to at least live with dignity.”

Since the Senate adopted the House version of the bill, Villar said there will be no need to approve the proposed bill at the bicameral conference committee.

At the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Representatives Neri Colmenares, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Mark Villar, Jesus Sacdalan, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Cresente Paez, Agapito Guanlao, Edgardo Masongsong, Leah Paquiz and Antonio Tinio.

“While the SSS provided a five percent across-the-board pension increase for its retired members in 2014, it is admitted that such five percent increase is definitely inadequate and not sufficient to cover the rising cost of living for the past 18 years,” Villar said.

Villar cited data from the National Statistical Coordinating Board which pegged monthly poverty threshold for a family of five at Php8,022 per month.

Poverty threshold refers to the minimum income a family or individual must earn in order to be considered “not poor.”

Villar said that the average SSS pensioner receives Php 3,169, which is below the poverty threshold.

”I do not think that the basis for which the SSS was established – that of promoting social justice and providing meaningful protection to its members and their beneficiaries against the hazards of old age, loss of income, among others – is at work,” Villar said.

For his part, Recto said roughly 1.5 million of the SSS pensioners of about 81.5 percent received a monthly pension below Php4,000 in 2012. The amount is less than the daily minimum wage and was below the poverty line set by government.

Under the proposed bill, those receiving the minimum SSS pension of Php1,200 per month will now receive Php3,200 under this bill and those who are getting Php3,169 a month will receive additional PHp2,000.

Recto said the increase in monthly SSS pension will not result in underspending since pensioners will spend their money and boost the domestic economy. Jelly F. Musico /PNA