THE SENATE on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure allowing President Rodrigo R. Duterte to suspend the increase in contributions by Social Security System (SSS) members.

With 21 affirmative votes, the Senate approved Senate Bill No. 2027 which gives the President the power to suspend the scheduled increase in the contribution rate for six months and extend it for another six months during the state of national emergency or calamity.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, who sponsored the bill, said the mandated SSS contribution increase is “not timely because of the continuing hardship brought about by the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) to the people and to the business sector.”

“This bill seeks to provide the people with flexibility to adapt to the pandemic by empowering the President to temporarily suspend or defend the increase in contributions scheduled under Republic Act (RA) 11199, so that the people will be able to have financial breathing space to be able to adjust to the ongoing National Emergency,” Mr. Gordon said in a statement.

The bill allows the President to suspend the increase upon the recommendation of the Social Security Commission after consulting with stakeholders.

Under RA No. 11199, otherwise known as the Social Security Act of 2018, the SSS is scheduled to raise the contribution rate to 13% from the current 12% this year. A one percentage point increase in contributions is scheduled every other year starting 2019 until it hits 15%.

Mr. Duterte in September last year extended the state of calamity until Sept. 12, 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said the monthly contribution payment is not suspended and the increase will only be deferred for a short period.

Kaya naman po hindi malaki ang tama sa SSS (The SSS will not take a big hit). It will not be placed in financial distress for helping those who are,” he said in explaining his affirmative vote.

The House of Representatives had approved on third and final reading a similar bill on Feb. 1. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas