When SSS chief Corazon de la Paz resigned, people and media have started speculating that there may be some mighty political hands behind her resignation. Her alibi for health did not sell; but when she talked about blocking “intentions of some quarters” to use SSS funds for the government’s pro-poor agenda last Thursday, the public started to believe her and took her words as something sensible and credible.
In contrast, the appointment of Neri as the replacement met heavy public uproar as if he is “not fit” for the job. Such another case again of recycling cabinet people of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to various government posts. But what really makes Neri unworthy to the job in terms of public perception?
Not in view of his capability because he could do such job very well according to his pal Jun Lozada who was interviewed in a TV network; but It is his credibility to manage an institution that involves billions of people’s money. It has been damaged by the unresolved issues of the ZTE broadband.
But that does not matter with Neri who “vows to properly manage SSS funds once he assumes the position. However, with his record of outstanding loyalty to President Arroyo, will the public bite his assurance and negate him against speculations of possibly mishandling SSS funds?
Below is a write-up of the issue from RG Cruz posted in ABS-CBN News Online.
Neri vows to properly manage SSS funds
Incoming Social Security System (SSS) chief Romulo Neri has vowed to properly manage the funds of the agency’s 27 million private sector members, citing his background in finance and his record as budget chief.
Responding to critics that he was not qualified for the post, Neri told Malacanang reporters his “qualifications speak for itself.”
“They can check my data, how I performed various functions at NEDA, DBM, CHED, and I think I performed satisfactorily,” he said.
Neri will replace SSS chief Corazon de la Paz effective August 1.
It will be his fourth assignment under the Arroyo government after having served as director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
When he was named DBM chief, Neri said Arroyo critics feared that it was like appointing Dracula to manage the country’s blood bank. But he said he was able to do a good job at the DBM.
“When I was appointed by by the President to DBM, [former Education Secretary] Butch Abad said putting me in DBM is like putting Dracula at the blood bank. But I performed decently in DBM, there’s no blood bank phenomenon there,” Neri said.
He said decisions at the SSS are made collectively through its council, and this reduces the chances of fund mismanagement.
“SSS is a council. It makes collective decisions, and it has representatives from workers group and the business sector. That alone should ensure they will be properly used, Neri said. “Labor is represented there, employers are represented, and SSS workers are active people. The won’t let shenanigans happen.”
On critics’ view that politics and orders of President Arroyo may lead to misuse of SSS funds, Neri told ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda Thursday there should be no conflict between what the President wants and what the SSS members want.
He said the goals of Mrs. Arroyo and SSS members should be the same: to raise SSS funds so that more benefits will go to its members.
Meanwhile, the employees’ union of the SSS said it it will closely monitor Neri since he will be administering the money contributed by SSS members nationwide.
“We’ll closely monitor Neri’s actions,” Dr. Carol Basilio, head of the SSS union told a radio dzMM interview.
“Bear in mind that we’ll be on guard since this is not the government’s money or the SSS’s money,” the union chief added.
She said that workers were surprised at the sudden turn of events.
“We were surprised. Actually, Mr. Neri, maybe he is a very intellectual man. But his credibility is at stake because of the ZTE scandal,” Basilio said, referring to the botched government contract with a Chinese corporation that allegedly involved Neri and several other personalities close to President Arroyo.
Not for pro-poor programs
Earlier Thursday, outgoing SSS chief Corazon de la Paz said she blocked intentions of some quarters to use SSS members’ funds for the government’s pro-poor agenda.
“What I was saying was that it’s not included in the [SSS] Charter. Using the funds has limits,” de la Paz told ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda” morning show.
She said that SSS funds cannot be used to finance pro-poor projects of the government “unless it is defined in the Charter.” The SSS is a government-controlled financial institution.
De la Paz, who oversees the private fund that administers the pensions of at least 800,000 members, said she had to “make a stand”.
She added that her decision may have been received negatively by some people.
The SSS chief had said on Wednesday that there was politics involved in her resignation, which will take effect on July 31.
“I said of course there will always be politics [in government], [especially] if your actions offended some people,” de la Paz said.
Asked to specify what she meant by politics, de la Paz cited the current economic crisis being experienced by poor Filipinos.
“There are problems in our country that need to be dealt with funds,” de la Paz said, adding that she was asked if SSS funds can be used to address these. — with a report from RG Cruz