RDC-XI calls for stop to GSIS' new survivorship benefits policies
By Carina L. Cayon
Davao City (18 May) -- The Regional Development Council here has called on the Government Service Insurance System to stop implementing its new policy on survivorship benefits for government employees.
In its position paper, the RDC-XI also called the attention of the "President of the Philippines and GSIS Board of Trustees to abandon said policies" which the RDC described as "unfair and contrary to the Philippine Constitution's mandate on ensuring and providing for the well-being of the family."
RDC-XI Vice-Chair and Regional Director Ma. Lourdes D. Lim of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) XI, disclosed that the body agreed to come up with a position paper to ventilate its opposition against the latest GSIS survivorship benefits policies.
Lim said "we hope that GSIS as well as the Congress would give favor to the arguments that would affect all of us in the government."
Republic Act 8291 or the GSIS Act of 1997 provides that "when a GSIS member or pensioner dies, the beneficiaries shall be entitled to survivorship benefits in the form of survivorship pension and/or cash payment."
But the RDC reacted strongly to the interpretation of the law made by the GSIS that RDC said restricted the qualifications of beneficiaries before they would qualify and avail of such benefits.
One policy states that the "surviving legitimate spouse shall be entitled to survivorship benefits if he/she is unemployed, not gainfully engaged in a business activity (self-employed), not receiving any other pension either from GSIS or another local or foreign institution".
The RDC-XI pointed out that "even if a surviving spouse is employed or has other sources of income but the same is not sufficient for his/her subsistence, he/she should still be entitled to receive survivorship benefits."
It added that "this interpretation would be more consistent with the law's intent of providing more responsive benefits to GSIS members and their dependents".
Another policy that the Council objected was the provision that said "legitimate spouse/secondary beneficiaries should be entirely dependent on the deceased member/pensioner for support and not employed, during the lifetime of the member, up to the time of application".
The RDC-XI cited Article 68 of the Family Code that provides "the spouses are jointly responsible for the support of the family and management of the household."
"Since the law on the family provides for the mutuality of support (and dependence) between husband and wife, any interpretation of any law dealing with the term "support" by anybody, GSIS included, should conform to the two-way application of the term, and the concurrence of such relationship should not work to the prejudice of either spouse claiming survivorship benefits," the position paper stressed.
It further said that "survivorship benefits are meant to substitute or replace the income earned by the member while living, to enable the dependents or survivors to continue with their lives despite the loss brought on by the death of the member."
"The application of GSIS new policies constitutes double jeopardy for husbands and wives who are both in the government service. Funds used to cover survivorship benefits are taken from the contributions of the members," the Council said.
"It is very ironic, if not downright absurd, for a family with both husband and wife working in government working and contributing double cannot in the end avail of survivorship benefits, while a family with one GSIS contributing member enjoys such benefits," it added.
RDC-XI reminded GSIS that "GSIS Act of 1997 is a social legislation whose intent is to protect the interest of the government workers and that the power to adjust benefits and rates are not meant to disadvantage the members by reducing their benefits, but rather to provide room for further improvement of the benefits initially and explicitly provided in the Act."
"By failing to protect the interest of members, the GSIS Board has lost its integrity as the protector of the rights of the members of the fund," it said.
Lim said that apart from the Office of the President and GSIS, the position paper would also be sent to NEDA national board, Congress and Senate. (PIA-XI) [top]