Thousands of public school teachers may soon enjoy higher benefits from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) after the Aquino administration finally agreed to pay overdue contributions from 1997 to 2010.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has committed to settle P6.92 billion in unpaid premiums of Department of Education (DepEd) personnel, representing government share in the past 13 years, while the GSIS will condone P14 billion in interest charges.
The historic agreement seeks to resolve the “chronic” non-remittance of contributions resulting in premium deficiencies of 784,602 employees of DepEd, was inked by the three concerned agencies in Malacañang. President Aquino witnessed the signing of the accord that coincided with the celebration of the National Teachers’ Month.
Under the agreement, the budget department will expedite the payment of overdue contributions by advancing P3.46 billion, or 50 percent of the P6.9 billion. The remaining balance will be released upon validation of the amount of the arrears by the Commission on Audit.
Apart from condoning the P14-billion interest from the arrears, GSIS agreed to grant a 5 percent discount on the principal considering DBM’s accelerated payment terms.
“DepEd employees in active service will now enjoy a proportionate increase in their eligible benefits. These include higher loanable amounts and potentially increased retirement benefits,” GSIS President and General Manager Robert Vergara said in a statement.
For retired DepEd personnel, Vergara said GSIS will refund any amount that was deducted and adjust their pensions accordingly.
Asked how soon the benefits for public school teachers will be restored, Vergara said it will take “one to two months” before these will be reflected in higher loanable values for active teachers as well as adjustments for retired teachers.
Education officials have welcomed the government’s settling of unpaid GSIS dues that would reinstate and increase benefits for public school teachers.
The past administration was unable to regularly pay it share in contributions of public school teachers to the GSIS which resulted to the deprivation of their entitlements as GSIS members.
GSIS Chairman Daniel Lacson said they plan to look into the reasons behind the non-remittance of contributions to GSIS by the DepEd and some government agencies. Lacson, in a press conference at the Palace, noted that some premiums were collected but were not remitted to GSIS.
Vergara assured that persons will be held accountable if proven they deliberately failed to remit the contributions deducted from government employees.
Apart from DepEd’s obligations, GSIS is also struggling to deal with the non-remittance of contributions amounting P4 billion to P5 billion from other state agencies.
“What we have to do is to come up with a better way of communicating with our agencies so that there is automatic feedback in shortfall of remittances. At the end of the day, we don’t want to penalize the government employee who has this deducted mandatory from their salary,” Vergara said in the same press conference.
“We are looking at ways so that suspension is not a measure that we can use to sanction agencies,” he added.
Meanwhile, teachers welcomed the move of the government. According to Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), “the long wait is over.”
TDC national chairperson Benjo Basas said that the government has finally decided to settle the long overdue obligation to teachers, which was recognized in 2007 GSIS-DBM Joint Memorandum Circular signed by DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya, Jr. and GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia at that time. “The government will now pay the retirement, maturity and others benefits to some 800, 000 DepEd employees in active service as well as those who have been retired,” he said.
Basas explained that the government “is liable for the non-payment of its share in premium contributions for two years, and the GSIS deducted the amount from the poor members’ benefits, even if the DBM recognizes its liability.” The past GSIS leadership, he added, refused to repay the amount it deducted from the teachers that it already ballooned to a total of P6 billion from year 1997 to 2010. —with a report from Ina Hernando Malipot.
By GENALYN D. KABILING