The Senate is ready to roll-out a slew of improved services and privileges to members of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) including a first ever “Members’ Rights” and reform provisions cutting down red-tape in collecting claims and having a GSIS board that is more responsive and accountable.
In response to complaints from public school teachers and other members of the state-run pension agency GSIS, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto filed Senate Bill No. 254 which seeks to reduce red tape at the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) by introducing a “Members’ Bill of Rights” in the GSIS Charter (Republic Act 8291).
Under the proposed measure, all GSIS members are granted specific rights such as: a) Right to courteous and responsive service; b) Right to information; c) Right to GSIS benefits; d) Right to expeditious processing of claims; e) Right to be heard; and f) Special Rights for the elderly. S.B. No. 254 also assigns to government agencies the main responsibility of remitting members’ contributions to GSIS within the prescribed time and format. Likewise, the bill grants the Regional Trial Court (RTC) to have concurrent jurisdiction over disputes arising from the grant of benefits to allow aggrieved GSIS members an alternative venue to appeal decisions on their claims for benefits aside from the GSIS.
With this proposed measure, it is hoped that the service delivery of GSIS to its approximately 1.68 million members, pensioners and beneficiaries will improve. The current GSIS Charter does not carry a provision on the “Bill of Rights of Members.”
“With these rights, no member of GSIS would sail into their sunset feeling bitter, empty and shortchanged by the same agency that they helped keep afloat through their monthly contributions,” Recto said. Recto said any official or unit of the GSIS flouting the rights of GSIS members faces legal and administrative sanctions.
Senate Bill 254 also reconstitutes the composition of the GSIS Board of Directors and provides for two (2) additional Board seats – to be occupied by the Secretary of Education and the Chair of the Civil Service Commission respectively – in order that the interests of civil servants and public school teachers, which comprise 60% of GSIS members.
Recto said the GSIS Board will have to be revamped to take in two new members to strengthen the ranks of government workers in the Board and ensure that their welfare is protected at all times. Currently, the GSIS board is comprised of the GSIS president/general manager, president of the Philippine Public School Teachers Association (PPSTA) or the President of the Philippine Association of School Superintendents, two representing government employees, four from banking, finance and insurance sectors, and one lawyer member of GSIS.
Recto said the presence of the DepEd Secretary and CSC chair in the GSIS Board should ensure prompt delivery of services and benefits to teachers and provide greater voice to other civil servants through the stewardship of CSC chief.
The bill also removes the prescriptive period of four years for all members to file for their benefits or claims. Currently, GSIS members and their beneficiaries have only four years to file for claims for benefits.
Recto said the consolidated version likewise slaps a penalty of two percent interest for every month that GSIS fails to release retirement benefits due to a member. “The penalty would keep the GSIS on its toes and ever vigilant on the primacy of timely delivery of benefits and claims,” Recto said.
The proposed measure also sets a limit of five percent on the GSIS funds that could be invested abroad to shield the pension fund from global financial upheavals and channel the funds to domestic investment.