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An invitation to serve.

AFTER I retired from work in a bank, I wrote in the opinion section of a newspaper about my very low pension. What I discovered from the readers' response prompted me to organize, 17 years ago on May 1, 1998, when I was a resident of Las Pinas City, an association of retirees called the Philippine Association of Retired Persons Inc. (PARP). It was eventually registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a nonprofit organization.

The PARP's vision statement is to assist retirees and senior citizens in enjoying the benefits of their retirement and senior years granted by law, and to act as guardian of their interests and welfare.

Its mission statement is to monitor the implementation of laws that benefit or grant certain rights to senior citizens and to promote their interests by proposing or supporting measures that will enable them to live humanely as members of our society.

With a national executive board composed of hard-boiled retired professionals, the PARP met with the presidents of the Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System and introduced itself as a representative of SSS and GSIS retirees formed to coordinate with these agencies in matters affecting their interests as former members.

The PARP directors asked the president of SSS why pensions were lower than the cost of living. He went into a long presentation to show why pensions were low. The PARP directors were incensed, and one banged his fist on the table and asked: What can you do to increase them? The SSS president hemmed and hawed and said he would study the problem. Thus began the adversarial relationship between the PARP and SSS and GSIS.

The PARP worked on pension computation and proceeded to question and suggest until the minimum pension was adjusted by SSS to P2,500. Then the PARP reviewed SSS' financial reports and battled with its president on its investments portfolio and questioned loans with substandard collateral. Eventually it won a case in court against SSS officials who incited employees to strike against a reformist new SSS president who, curiously, was replaced by then President Joseph Estrada.

The PARP's most dramatic accomplishment was its discovery that then SSS president Corazon dela Paz had signed a midnight agreement to sell to Banco de Oro the agency's 188 million shares of stock in Equitable PCIBank without public bidding at a grossly disadvantageous price of P43.50 per share when the market value was P60 and rising. The PARP went to court to stop the sale, going as far as the Supreme Court. The issue became the subject of a Senate committee inquiry, until finally the shares were sold to Banco de Oro at P92 per share to settle the case.

Subsequent events required me to transfer my residence to Cebu City. I left the PARP in the hands of my cofounders, but somehow it slid into some kind of suspended animation which was made worse by the effects of several typhoons that claimed the lives of many of our members in Leyte, Samar and Compostela Valley, where we had 13 of our 34 chapters and about 250 of our over 5,000 members nationwide. None of them responded to my inquiries as to their status after the disasters.

Then, for lack of activity, the other chapters simply withered on the vine. However, the Cebu chapter of PARP continued serving retirees with pension problems. It has helped many retirees in Mindanao and in Eastern Visayas. An outstanding example was the case of a nurse who retired and whose pension was withheld by GSIS for over 20 years. PARP Cebu fought for her pension for almost two years until finally her pension of about P1 million was released. But it was too late for the retired nurse to enjoy it because now she and her husband can hardly walk.

The PARP wants to continue to serve, but it needs new blood. (I am 91; I can hardly see, hear or walk.) It needs younger retirees, more able-bodied senior citizens, especially retired professionals, business executives, owners of big firms, retirees from the academe, all who can help with their time, talent and treasure to make it a stable and effective champion of the needs and rights of retirees and senior citizens.

If you are interested, please contact the undersigned.

A side advantage for interested and qualified members is the opportunity to serve in Congress if elected because the PARP is registered with the Commission on Elections and can field candidates in the party-list polls.

And then there's the good feeling of having served the least of our brethren while still we can our best afford, as we say in our Retiree's Prayer.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 27, 2015
Words:783
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