Romulo Neri’s appointment as the concurrent president and chief executive officer of the Social Security System as well as a “social welfare czar” with a Cabinet rank is an ominous sign of another plot that is being hatched by the cabal of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
This was bared by the Alliance of Progressive Labor following the announcement of Malacañang on July 9 that Neri would take over the helm of the SSS on August 1 and, as the SSS administrator, would also head the consolidation of all social welfare programs of various government agencies into a single National Social Welfare Program (NSWP), which reportedly has a P45 billion fund.
Barely a day before Neri’s selection, Arroyo also issued Administrative Order No. 232 instructing that “the existing programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, and other agencies dealing with social welfare shall be clustered together into a national social welfare program” and to “be headed by the Administrator of the SSS, who shall be granted Cabinet rank.”
“Neri’s apparently impressive academic credential and professional background – Ateneo high school alumnus, UP Business Administration graduate (valedictorian and magna cum laude), MBA from UCLA, corporate planning and finance officer in several large companies, professor in Asian Institute of Management, head of the House of Representatives’ Congressional Planning and Budget Office, Department of Budget and Management secretary, National Economic and Development Authority director general, Commission on Higher Education chair – are all for naught or highly overshadowed by his infamous role in covering up Arroyo’s culpability in the fraudulent ZTE broadband deal,” the APL said.
The APL described the “SSS and NSWP promotion” as a way of repaying Neri for adamantly refusing to incriminate Arroyo in the ZTE rip-off. It added that conferring a Cabinet rank on Neri is also a “bureaucratic tactic” for him to remain covered with the much abused “executive privilege” that Arroyo routinely invokes to prohibit state officials from attending Senate investigations on government anomalies, especially those that allegedly involve Arroyo’s close associates, including some of her family members.
“Because of Neri’s twisted loyalty to Arroyo – and the notoriety of her regime as pathologically corrupt and deceitful, and with a penchant to forcefully suppress dissent and the truth – he does not have even an iota of credibility to honestly and effectively manage the multibillion-peso resources of both NSWP and SSS,” the APL declared.
The APL expressed fear that the NSWP and SSS would be transformed into milking cows of top Arroyo minions, and could become an incredibly rich sources of funds for the administration candidates in the national elections in 2010, just like what happened in the Joc-joc Bolante “fertilizer scam” or the alleged diversion of P728 million funds in the Department of Agriculture for Arroyo’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Outgoing SSS chief Corazon dela Paz reported that SSS is expecting this year a net income of P21.5 billion or a 13-percent increase from last year’s P12.13 billion. The total SSS funds, in turn, have already reached to P247.74 billion as of December 2007.
“With a very subservient underling like Neri administering the pension fund and with extremely money-hungry Arroyo vultures hovering around him, the hard earned money contributed to the SSS by private sector and self-employed workers are in danger of being plundered and misused,” warned the APL.
The SSS has regularly been coveted by corrupt government officials and their cronies, the latest was during the short-lived Estrada government, which was ironically toppled in 2001 by a “people power uprising” due to large-scale corruption also and was replaced as president by Arroyo, his vice president then.
Carlos Arellano, Estrada’s handpicked SSS head, later revealed that the former president pressured him to authorize the purchase of SSS of 249 million shares of Belle Corp., a real estate firm, worth P784 million – even though the timing was off for such a big investment. It was later learned that Estrada earned from the said illegal transaction a whopping P189.7 million commission.
The APL, along with many other organizations, will be staging protest actions to expose and fight this latest attempt of the Arroyo clique to deceive the Filipino people and to bilk the SSS and other social welfare funds.