By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan

THE STATE-RUN pension fund will chase an initial 7,000 firms that evaded contribution payments to help shore up its revenues after its profits shrank last year.

“We have identified some 7,000 delinquent companies, malaki at maliit (big and small), all over the country. Sila ang aming bibisitahin or dadalawin. Padadalhan ng (We will pay them a visit and send a) notice,” Social Security System (SSS) President and CEO Emmanuel F. Dooc in a press conference yesterday.

He said this will be done through the issuance of Warrant of Distraint, Levy and Garnishment (WDLG), where the pension fund will question employers’ payment records — a measure that has never been done by SSS even though it is granted under the Social Security Act of 1997.

The WDLG will enable the SSS to seize real and personal properties, subject to an auction sale, as payment for unpaid contributions resulting from unsatisfactory assessments.

Mr. Dooc said this would shore up “significant income” for them once the measure is implemented “before the end of the year.”

“I’ve asked our legal and large account (divisions) to give me P5 billion,” Mr. Dooc said when asked how much he expects to collect after issuing WDLGs.

“We are expecting that this will bring us greater efficiency in collecting,” he said.

“We are already training our account officers. We are hiring legal enforcement officers and sheriffs to serve notices and corresponding warrants.”

SSS’ profit in 2017 dropped by 36.56% to P20.3 billion from the P32 billion it recorded in 2016.

Moreover, the SSS official said that he remains hopeful for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s approval of the pension fund’s proposed contribution hike by the second half this year.

“I remain hopeful that we can effect the contribution increase hopefully this year. I hope it would be started on April, but that will not happen pending the request submitted to Malacañang. but we follow it up regularly,” said Mr. Dooc.

“I hope that we can still do it on the second half. First half, there’s a slim chance. The earlier, the bigger our collection,” he added.

He said that if the SSS were able to increase the contribution rate shared by employers and employees by 3% to 14%, and likewise raise the maximum salary credit to P20,000 from P16,000, it would generate some P45 billion additional revenues by the end of the year.

Aside from the Palace order, Mr. Dooc said they are also waiting on Congress’ amendment of the SSS Charter before they could unilaterally increase the contribution rates.

The House of Representatives already approved on final reading House Bill 2158 in January this year, but its counterpart in the Senate is set to start deliberations in the plenary.

The contribution hike was supposed to be a condition to the first P1,000 across-the-board pension hike in January last year.

Meanwhile, the SSS will also be launching another loan restructuring program (LRP) for delinquents affected by natural calamities next month.

“This is the second opportunity to launch the loan restructuring program. This follows last year’s LRP na napakaraming nag-avail nito (which so many availed of),” SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel F. Dooc in a press conference yesterday in Quezon City.

He said that he expects the SSS to condone P2.85 billion penalties and generate about P1.2 billion from the LRP — much lower than the P13 billion it raised during April 2016 to April 2017 from about 850,000 delinquents.

Mr. Dooc said that the upcoming offer would cater to those remaining SSS member-delinquents — about 250,000 — who were not able to avail the previous LRP, and is not intended to be a revenue-raising measure.

“While many have benefited from the Loan Restructuring Program implemented in 2016, we have also received numerous requests from members to extend or re-implement it. So for those who were not able to apply, this is your time to clean your outstanding loan balance and regain your good-standing with SSS,” said Mr. Dooc.

Mr. Dooc said that all SSS branches will start accepting applications on April 2. Unlike the first LRP, the offer period would only last for six months.

To qualify under the second LRP, the loan must be past its due for at least six months from the offer period, and must be residing or working on the date of the disaster-struck area as declared by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

He said this includes victims of the Marawi crisis last year and the eruption of the Mayon volcano in January.

Potential borrowers under the LRP will be able to take advantage of a lower 3% interest rate payable at a maximum of five years, lower than the 10% it charges in its usual loan packages.

Approved applicants may no longer participate in any future SSS loan condonation. Members that were granted with final benefit claims prior to the LRP period cannot avail the program, as well as those who committed fraud against the SSS.

The LRP covers SSS’ loan programs including the Salary Loan, Emergency Loan, Educational Loan, Study Now Pay Later Plan, Voc-Tech Loans, Y2K Loans and Investments Incentive Loan.

“This is our way of helping our members to clear their obligations within their capacity, as well as making sure that they have a secured future with their entitlement to full SSS benefits because we at SSS know that a majority of our members have undergone difficulties caused by disasters and calamities,” Mr. Dooc said.