Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sullying their memories

POLITICKING marked the first anniversary of the Mamasapano incident. As politicians—preferably candidates for the upcoming elections—attempted to cash in on the memory of the fallen officers. Chief among them was Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who declared that he would prove that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino was directly to blame for the deaths on that January morning.
 
The Senate hearing on the incident was reopened. But after more than seven hours, no new issues were uncovered. The blame game continued on. And the memories of the fallen Special Action Forces commandos were not only disrespected but more so, sullied. It was as if they went to Mamasapano for a picnic when they were pounced upon by extremists, bandits and private armed groups.

Those officers died trying to protect the country from more terrorism threats; and as the Armed Forces of the Philippines succinctly put it: the military has lost more soldiers that they can count but they do not blame anyone for them. They grieve, they bury their dead and honor their memories by finishing what they started.

The Mamasapano incident was a failure waiting to happen; from the planning to its execution down to the exit strategy, which apparently their head then did not realize. And when the casualties piled up, instead of trying to find ways to help them, the officer concerned was more afraid of the possible personal blowbacks. Rather than crafting a fool-proof plan, the officer in charge was more concerned about possible leaks of their plan. In the end, everything failed, and if not for the completion of their mission, this would have been the biggest and most regretful debacle in SAF’s history.

But those who have fallen should not be looked upon as victims or as collateral damages for to do this is to step on the heroism they have shown that day. Their deaths may have been unwarranted but this folly falls squarely on the shoulders of Getulio NapeƱas for he was the unit’s head, primary planner and ground commander.

The fallen 44 are heroes. And we should not sully the memory of their heroism just to score political points. We all know who failed at his duties. And we cannot call on the fallen 44’s memories just for political mileage, personal vendetta or vested interests.

Vetoed

As expected, PNoy is now being crucified for his veto of the SSS pension increase bill. Though some sectors have actually lauded the President for this move, noisier sectors have vilified him. The campaign season has made matters worse as now politicians of all stripes and colors have suddenly emerged as “champions” of seniors, the primary beneficiaries of the vetoed bill.

It, of course, never occurred to most people concerned that to increase the pension, additional funding is needed; something that was not mentioned at all in the bill mandating the increase.

The figures released to sustain the increase have been pegged at P56 billion. This is for the P2,000 across the board increase. SSS officials have asserted that at this rate, the pension funds would all be wiped out by 2027.

The SSS mismanagement notwithstanding, this increase should have been given more thought by those who crafted the vetoed bill. Where to get the additional funding should have been specifically identified. For as in all things that concern the government, additional benefits generally mean additional taxes—and for this issue, additional contributions from already overburdened private workers.


It could have been better if our lawmakers would have thought of better ways to improve SSS collection and better investment patterns that would translate into higher earnings and thus higher benefits for contributors. But as in everything else in this political season, convenience and brownie points count more than common sense and properly thought out laws.

Incompetence, still

THE Social Security System, meanwhile, should have simply volunteered on its own to increase benefits for its retired contributors. As surely they have understood, the benefit packages they are currently giving retired contributors could hardly put a dent in their daily financial needs.

Life has become hard no matter the economic “miracles” being bandied about. And life has become harder still for retirees as they now have to make do with the miniscule SSS benefits to tide them over. It may be true that the government has activated other benefits for our senior citizens but all these are hardly ever enough.


As SSS is seen as the light at the end of an employee’s tunnel, it might just be a lot better if the pension fund managers find better ways to alleviate some of the burdens of retirees; and truly make a significant difference in their lives.

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