Congress adjourns, no vote to override Aquino SSS pension veto
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – About 100 senior citizens who trooped to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, February 3, expressed outrage that congressmen, despite forming a quorum, did not take up the possibility of overriding President Benigno Aquino III’s veto on the Social Security System (SSS) pension hike.
The House adjourned at 7:30 pm for its 15-week break for the campaign and elections.
During Congress’ last session day, pensioners from in and out of Metro Manila marched to Batasan as early as 2:30 pm, to relay their call to the representatives who were expected at the 4 pm plenary session. The senior citizens were led by progressive groups Bayan Muna and Gabriela.
“Nanawagan kami na 'yung dalawang libo sana maibigay kasi 'yun, malaking bagay sa amin 'yun eh. Pambili namin ng mga gamot. Pambili namin ng mga kailangan, lalong lalo na sa panahon ngayon, hirap na ang buhay,” said 66-year-old Alberto Buenazedacruz.
(We are calling for the P2,000 [increase] to be granted because it is a big thing for us – to buy our medicines, to buy our food, especially nowadays when life is so hard.)
“Palagay ko naman makakatulong 'yun, 'pag gustong gawin. Walang mahirap 'pag gustong gawin, hindi ba?” the pensioner from Caloocan added. (I believe [our mobilization] will help. If they want to do something, nothing is difficult, they will do it.)
Bearing a heart-shaped sign with the words “Bumoto kayo para sa amin mga lolo’t lola,” Edna Sahgun of Makati said lawmakers should fight for the legislation that they themselves passed.
“Paalala ito sa mga congressman, na 'yung 'pinasa nilang batas ay masusugan pa nila,” Sahgun said.
(This is a reminder to lawmakers to stand by the law they passed.)
This is not the first time senior citizens mobilized to call for the overturn of the pension hike veto. On Saturday, January 30, pensioners also gathered in Quezon City.
In order to overturn the President’s decision, at least 192 lawmakers should vote to override the measure. Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares earlier called on his colleagues to vote for the benefit of pensioners.
But House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said it is upon the SSS board to provide for a more amenable increase of P1,000. The House leader also called for the passage of the complementary bill that will allow the board to independently raise contribution rates, which will ensure the longevity of SSS funds – a bill it passed but which the Senate didn't.
According to Colmenares, there were at least 200 lawmakers in the plenary. Speaker Belmonte did not show up on the last session day.
"Nagbibilang ako, abot ng isang daan ang nakikita ko, tapos sinuspinde ang session after two hours," said one old woman immediately after the session was closed. (I was counting. There were about 100 people in the hall, but they suspended the session after two hours.)
Remedios de Jesus, who went to the House with her sickly husband, said she expected lawmakers to just conduct a vote.
"'Yun man lang magkaron ng botohan. Ipaglaban man lang nila, sila naman ang nagpasa, sila rin ang nag-isip nito. Ipaglaban man lang nitong mga congressmen na ito 'yung batas na ipinasa nila."
(They could have voted upon it. [All I'm asking] is for them to fight for the measure they themselves passed. They were the ones who thought about this.)
Colmenares told the pensioners: "Ituloy natin ang panawagan na magconvene ng special session ang Kongreso at pagbotohan ang override. Mag-rally tayo, puntahan ang congressmen. May quorum tayo kanina, hindi nila kinoconvene."
(Let us continue our call to urge Congress to conduct a special session to vote on the override. Let us rally, go to the congressmen. We have a quorum earlier, but they did not convene.) – Rappler.com