Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Seniors stage rally over GSIS pensions

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Ben Balce/March 6) - A group of retired government employees on Friday trooped to the streets for a demonstration aimed at pressuring the Government Service Insurance Corp. (GSIS) to increase their pensions and give more benefits.

Members of the group, called Government Retirees’ Association of the Philippines (Graphil), braved the heat of the sun as they staged rally near the GSIS office in Carmen, this city.

They demanded that GSIS increase their pensions again by at least 12 percent each year or even more.

Graphil leader Roberto Mabulay said the retirees were dismayed after GSIS reduced the annual pension increase to three percent.

The group also questioned the GSIS’s move to stop giving benefits to the beneficiaries of the deceased.

The organized retirees also demanded that GSIS compute loans based on the actual years of public service of the pensioner.

The GSIS, they said, make the computations based on the number of years when they served as regular employees of the government. Many of them started as casual/contractual employees of the government and were regularized years later.

Former mayors Pablo Magtajas of Cagayan de Oro and Jaime Abarrientos of Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, joined the protesters. Former city health officer Dr. Jacinto Frias also came.

The pensioners accused the GSIS of corruption.

The alleged corruption, they said, has resulted in delays in the release of pensions.

The pensioners claimed they have yet to receive their pensions this year.

“GSIS is cruel,” said Mabulay. “Why they are always delaying our claims? Where are our pensions? They should explain to us what really happened to our pensions.”

“It’s Charter is a social legislation whose mission is to serve its members,” Mabulay, a lawyer who once served in GSIS, told crowd.

Mabulay’s group raised five major concerns:

- restoration of the annual increase of 12 percent which was reduced by the agency to three percent in 2004.

- resumption of Christmas gifts;

- increase in burial benefits from P20 thousand to P40 thousand;

- appointment of retiree to the GSIS board;

- establishment of GSIS bank

Luz Briones, the head of the local GSIS office, appeased the protesters by talking to them.

Briones in a news conference, said GSIS temporarily stopped releasing some of the benefits after the office discovered there were many false claims and discrepancies.

A number of pensioners did not inform GSIS that they have remarried or that their children, who are beneficiaries, have already turned 18.

Briones said she would refer the complaints to her superiors in Manila.