Palace condones P280-b SSS penalties, backs P15-b dole

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — WITH less than six months left in office, President Arroyo turned on the aid spigot Thursday, signing a law to condone P280 billion in penalties for employers who failed to remit the social security premiums of their employees and seeking to make permanent a P15,000 dole to one million of the poorest families.

Mrs. Arroyo said that under the law, delinquent employers, including those with pending cases, may remit their unpaid premiums within the next six months.

Social Security System president and chief executive Romulo Neri said companies may also submit a proposal to pay in installments provided a down payment of not less than 5 percent of their total contribution delinquency was paid.

Neri said the employer must remit the balance in equal monthly installments within 48 months and with an interest of 3 percent a year.

Upon approval and payment in full or in installments, all pending cases against the employer would be withdrawn, but these may be filed again if the employer failed to make good on the contributions, he said.

The SSS hopes to collect P109 billion in unremitted premiums with the one-time condonation of penalties from at least 164,111 delinquent employers or companies.

At the same time, the President said she would certify as urgent a pending bill in Congress that would institutionalize her administration’s conditional cash transfer program, which gives a yearly cash grant of P15,000 to one million of the poorest families. The program would cost the government P15 billion a year.

“We really want that institutionalized,” the President said on an inspection tour of a relocation site in Laguna. “I will certify it as urgent because that is one of our most successful pro-poor programs.”

“For 2010, the conditional cash transfer program is already in the budget, but we don’t know whether the next administration will continue it,” she said.

During her inspection tour in Dayap and Sto. Tomas village, Mrs. Arroyo said funding for the P600-million relocation site for some 3,000 victims of tropical storm Ondoy came from the P12-billion calamity loan fund released by Pag-IBIG.

“That’s the biggest calamity loan fund we have released to a single agency,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo and Vice President and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chairman Noli de Castro also distributed grants to various cooperatives within the relocation site to help the residents start their own businesses within the compound.

“My manicurista is also living in this relocation site. She said that once I step down as president, she will sell dried fish here,” Mrs. Arroyo said.