Ateneo defeats UST in debate on SSS pension hike
The Ateneo de Manila University defeated the University of Santo Tomas in an inter-law school debate yesterday, Jan. 20, at the Senate. Debate sa Senado centered on whether or not Congress should override President Benigno Aquino III's veto of the P2000 SSS pension hike or HB 5842.
The Ateneo de Manila University defeated the University of Santo Tomas in an inter-law school debate yesterday, Jan. 20, at the Senate.
Debate sa Senado centered on whether or not Congress should override President Benigno Aquino III’s veto of the P2000 SSS pension hike or HB 5842.
The Ateneo debate team composed of Natasha Daphne Marcelo, Rami Hourani and Zanjo Garcia argued in favor of a congressional override, while the UST team composed of Mark Vixen Dorado, Dianne Lucero and Jonalyn Roxas argued against it.
While UST did not win the Ateneo-organized debate, the adjudicators lauded Dorado as the best speaker for the championship round.
Dorado was also hailed as ninth best speaker for the semi-finals round.
“I did my best. We sacrificed so many hours of sleep, [and] actually ngayon wala pa kaming tulog just for this. It’s really rewarding. It’s not just for me, this is for God, this is for UST,” Dorado said.
The debate followed the modified Oregon-Oxford format wherein an affirmative side argues in favor of a proposition and a negative side counters it. Each speaker was given four minutes to present their arguments.
‘Pension hike a necessity’
The Ateneo team said that the proposed pension hike would be of great help to the elderly and is necessary due to inflation.
“In overriding the President’s veto of HB 5842, it will enable government to fulfill its responsibility in caring for our elderly and at the same time, provide the SSS an impetus to improve its system as a whole,” said Marcelo.
“An additional P2000 for each pensioner can buy 11 kilograms of beef, 17 kilograms of fish or 10 kilograms of leafy greens. It can even get a month’s worth of maintenance medication or the school supplies for the youngest grandson,” said Hourani.
Marcelo also argued that the pension has been stagnant at P1200 since 1997 and has devalued by half, if pegged at a uniform inflation rate of 3.5 percent.
“This means that pensioners today are receiving less than half of what they were receiving back in 1997, and that is a very real problem that HB 5842 seeks to address,” she added.
However, the UST team maintained that the President’s veto of the bill was necessary.
Dorado countered that the policy cannot be supported due to “its dire financial consequences”, as the proposed hike would amount to P56 billion per year and would cause a P16 to P26 billion yearly deficit.
“The bill would surely benefit the two million pensioners and their dependents for now, but it would seriously, seriously compromise the stability of the entire SSS.”
Hourani contested by saying that the funding for the hike can be sourced through SSS investments, higher collection and by persecuting members who do not pay.
However, Roxas argued that Ateneo’s proposal would be “detrimental, burdensome and unsustainable” and is “non-beneficial to both benefactors and tax payers.” She also said that for every P6 shelled out for benefits, only P1 is contributed.
Garcia said that the SSS can simply source funding from the government treasury, but Roxas pointed out that the SSS must be bankrupt first before the government can enter to bail it out.
The UST team clarified that they are not against a pension hike, but only against a congressional override of the President’s veto.
“We would like to make it clear that this debate is not about being on the popular side, this debate is about being proper, being right,” said Dorado.
“The mandate of the Social Security System to provide significant protection to its members and their beneficiaries is not only confined to two million pensioners currently, but the future of the other 32 million members cannot be sacrificed at the outpour of this populous clamor,” said Lucero.
HB 5842 was authored by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and was only awaiting Aquino’s signature to be enacted into law, but the President refused to sign it because he claims that doing so would make the SSS bankrupt.
However, the Congress can override the presidential veto if the representatives gather a two-thirds vote to support the contested bill.
Ten teams from six law schools competed in the semi-finals held at the Ateneo Law School in Makati last Jan. 16, with Ateneo and UST emerging as victors.
The championship round was adjudicated by Ateneo alumni Atty. Roland Glenn Tuazon, Sen. Francis Escudero’s lawyer Atty. Michael Vincent Galarosa and New Era University law dean Abraham Espejo, who also served as chief adjudicator.
Debate sa Senado was organized by the Ateneo St. Thomas More Debate and Advocacy Society in cooperation with the Senate Committee on Mass Media and Public Information headed by Sen. Grace Poe.
Poe was briefly present during the debate and encouraged the participants to continue in the art of debating and said that she hopes to see the participants in the Senate halls someday.
– Xave Gregorio/TomasinoWeb