The Social Security System (SSS)
Of Bacoor City (Cavite, Philippines)
By Apolinario Villalobos
Nowadays, seldom can one find employees who are unassuming, they who dispense their job inconspicuously but with dispatch for the benefit of clients. It cannot be denied that some offices are still wanting in modern facilities so that their staff can function efficiently. Also, there is the stress due to long queues of clients to be attended that affect the nerves.
I have mentioned the Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees of Davao airport station in my earlier commentary on how they handled a stressful situation due to the overflow of passengers and which I have witnessed. They obviously employed temperance to the maximum, a rare feat despite the presence of disgruntled customers breathing down their shoulders.
In another situation, particularly the Social Security System (SSS) office in Bacoor City of Cavite province, south of Manila, I was again witness to a systematic handling of stressful situation despite cramped space and limited manpower. One commendable staff is a certain Ms. Rischelle G. Tabanan whose duty is to interview claimants of benefits and retiring members. I had the chance to be served by the unassuming lady staff who despite the long line of clients that she interviewed ahead of me as a prerequisite in the processing of documents, she was still all smile and did not miss any single reminder about the rules. She did not show any impatience while answering questions to clear apprehensions. In fairness to the other staff, though, I must admit that there could be like Ms. Tabanan in other service areas dispensing their duties efficiently.
The guards likewise showed diligence in handling queries while doing the “walk” around the service area. During the time that I was there, I observed that the two guards on duty did not take a lunch break, of if they did, I could have missed the quickness of how they took the break for a few bite of packed lunch. The service area was practically jampacked with clients that overflowed to the stairway. One of the guards did not get tire of vocalizing reminders for the benefit of those who failed to check the posted guidelines on the tarpaulin.
The SSS is just among the agencies that hit the limelight due to questionable appropriation of funds. The said accusation added a negative color to its already tarnished image. But thanks to the branch offices that try their best in changing this general impression. The visit that I made to the agency when I filed some documents was my first and I was impressed by the agency’s branch in Bacoor City in making do with what they can to make the members comfortable. All personnel, even office trainees, report to the office on the dot, and their doors are opened for transactions as scheduled. In fact, their concern for members who come from far flung areas shows in how the guards distribute queue numbers as early as six in the morning to give the early arrivals time for a quickie coffee or breakfast. I have talked to some members who told me that they took the risk of commuting from their homes as early as 5AM to be at SSS at 6AM, thereby, missing even a gulp of coffee. Guidelines in big tarpaulins are hung in conspicuous areas and practically even the guards are well-trained and courteous.
While SSS has unassuming employees who work without any complaint despite heavy loads and stress, it should still take a second look at the manpower requirement and work area of its branches. If only for the comfort of the members who patiently stand in queue for a long time while waiting for their turn to be served, the agency should act with haste as membership is steadily bloating. The membership whose contributions grease the components of this particular social security machinery so that they can operate efficiently, deserve a better return from this social security investment, the premium for which is from hard-earned wages.
The following are suggestions intended for SSS in general:
- The agency should embark on information blitz via the broadcast media (radio, tv, dailies) for the guidance of the about-to-retire members. Most often, these members come to know about the guidelines on the day they visit the agency on their 60th birthday. In general, members are not informed that processing of documents can be done even a month before their 60th birthday. The rest of information may be about the other benefits and services.
- Relocate cramped branches to more spacious buildings without sacrificing the location for the benefit of commuting members.
- Provide toilet facilities outside the offices for members who come hours before the opening of office doors. As a rule the toilet facility inside the service areas cannot be used by members while the offices are still closed. However, if this is not possible, the guards should at least be given instruction to allow the use of public toilet inside the office. Also, the janitor should see to it that the toilets are clean all the time.
- Most importantly, the agency should exert effort in advising the members about options on how they can maximize their expected pensions. Oftentimes, the members who resigned from jobs but have reached the “maximum contribution” to qualify them for the monthly pension, are told that their total contribution is sufficient, hence, they need not continue paying for the monthly premium. The concerned members are not told that the “sufficiency” of the contribution covers only the “minimum” pension. Had they been “encouraged” to go on paying the premium even as voluntary members until they reach the mandatory age of 60, they could have been assured of a higher amount of monthly pension.
There is no perfect service, as not everyone can be fully satisfied. This is what is meant by the adage, “you cannot please everybody”. However, unassuming human components of the agency should be commended in their effort to make the members satisfied despite limitations. The agency should therefore be sensitive enough to identify these people within their organization for their inspiring effort, so that credit or recognition can be given where it is due.