i will not even get into the legality of Chairman Romula Neri’s decision to use Social Security System’s funds for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s stimulus package — Rep. Liza Masa is doing a good job of that already. nor will i get into the probability that this will expectedly be used by GMA to win the 2010 elections, because her government always seems to think that the downtrodden will be easily impressed by contractual jobs, with little pay and no benefits (oh such little faith in the intelligence of the oppressed masses!).
what i will insist on is this: the Social Security System is in no position to give out its money, because it has yet to even serve its members. and you know i’m not even one to complain about long lines (i come from the University of Pila after all) and rude employees (i’ve had my share of government offices after all). all i ask is that the SSS be able to give its members what’s due them: our I.D.’s when we need them and access to our benefits with as little of those bureaucratic hassles as possible.
and yet what we are treated to is an unfair system that puts members through hell because it is disorganized, unjust, and downright unacceptable.
let me begin with this: those of us who live in the Mandaluyong and Pasig areas have to go all the way to Quezon City to get our Identification Cards processed because both the Mandaluyong and Pasig SSS branches have broken I.D. card machines. Mandaluyong has had a broken machine for oh, three years? and the Pasig branch for over a year. this is not just inconvenient, it is unforgivable given the fact that in order to get any — ANY! — of your benefits you must have at least your SS ID claim stub.
but of course when you are desperate, and in need, you will go that length of traveling from wherever you are in this country to that rare SSS branch that has an SS I.D. machine. so i get there at 7:30 AM, thinking that i was to early only to find that i was too late. i was number 442 — four hundred f*** forty two! — and my I.D. application was only going be entertained four hours later. i had to wait outside the building, in the heat, with no food and no clean comfort room.
when you finally face the scowling SSS employee, she processes your papers with nary a smile, and you are told to return at 7AM the following day for the I.D. picture. and i do, at a little over 7AM, only to find that they started giving out cards at 5:30, when the first member arrived. and i was now number 96 — an improvement nonetheless, i think.
but now the issue is this: you are told to wait inside the building and not outside, and you are told to sit in proper order on the row upon row of seats. you are also told by the Security Guard that if you step out for any reason, you might lose your place and there will be no getting it back, sorry na lang kayo. and as the airconditioning is on high (it’s a huge space after all), and i’m stuck in my assigned seat (the guard is a scary scary man), i am forced to keep my pee in, kidney stones and UTI be damned!
i listen to those around me, and i realize that i am better off. two men who met while waiting, started talking about having to leave — one for Dubai, the other for “Saudi” — both as construction workers. they expect to get their I.D.s today because they need it to travel. meanwhile, a pregnant lady two seats to my left who, by the looks of it was well into her third trimester, was talking about how much money she needed for giving birth, and how difficult it has been being pregnant and trying to get her SSS maternity benefit. the old man beside me was holding his forms for dear life, newly-employed as he was, and needing an SSS I.D. to get his employment papers properly processed. he should’ve been there to collect retirement benefits.
we were all finally being told to enter these cubicles with the oh so rare computers for I.D. processing, one-by-one. and when we are done with the process of putting in a Personal Identification Number (P.I.N. — which not everyone had a sense of), and giving our electronic thumbprint and signature, we are told this: your I.D.s will be delivered via snail mail in seven months. SEVEN F*@%^ MONTHS!
and i couldn’t help but wonder about those who needed it already, because they are due to fly out and work elsewhere for home and family. i wonder about the old man whose papers might only be processed when he has his I.D. in hand. i do think about how unfair the whole process has been, because the difficulty is uncalled for. had there been a machine in Mandaluyong, i can’t imagine that i would be number 442 OR 96. had there been more machines, and more people manning them, as well as more people printing out those I.D.s, i can’t imagine that it should take seven months to get these via mail.
and ultimately, i can’t imagine that any of this can’t be fixed with the P12.5 billion pesos of SSS money that Romulo Neri has so generously decided to dole out for the stimulus package. it is unbelievable that given the horrible third world system of the SSS, which puts its members through hell in its incapacity to serve properly and punctually, it is so willing to spend on “saving the world” even when it is not clear about where the money’s going. that the SSS will be “spending” its members’ money — that which they work hard for, that which they fall in line for, that which they expect must be easy to claim — makes this all the more despicable.
SSS Chairman Romula Neri wants to save the world. and as a member who has been oppressed by the SSS’ (lack of a) system, my response is simple: utang na loob!