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Good pre-need law urgent…not constitutional change

By Evangeline Escobillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:50:00 02/22/2009

The House of Representatives is not doing enough for the two million pre-need customers, of which more than half are victims of pre-need companies that collapsed over the last seven years.

Instead, our congressmen are laboring to change the Constitution.

On Feb. 15 last year, about 10,000 farmers, students, professionals and workers were on the streets of Makati asking the President to step down.

The issue was the alleged big kickback behind the Philippine National Broadband Network (NBN-ZTE) project where the whistle-blower was “kidnapped” and his life threatened.

President Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband were among those allegedly involved in the NBN-ZTE project worth $329.5 million or P16.5 billion.

Corruption charges

Gloria is perceived by many to have cheated massively in the 2004 elections and, therefore, an illegitimate president amid the worsening series of corruption charges.

Last week’s Senate hearings were focused on World Bank (WB) reports implicating high-ranking officials including the President’s husband in the reported corruption in WB-funded projects.

A recent survey revealed that this administration is the most corrupt in the nation’s history.

Many are waiting for the 2010 presidential elections as a constitutional deadline to end Gloria’s illegitimate tenure.

However, there are signs that Gloria wants to remain in power after 2010.

Last Friday, the Speaker of the House together with the majority of Congressmen sponsored House Resolution 737: Resolution Proposing Amendments to Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the Constitution to Allow the Acquisition by Foreign Corporations and Associations, and the Transfer or Conveyance Thereto, of Alienable Public Lands and Private Lands seeking to allow foreign entities to own lands not exceeding 25 hectares, and to explore and develop the natural resources through joint venture or production sharing arrangement.

Purportedly, this is to attract foreign investment.

I am strongly against this move now because once the resolution is on the floor, the whole Constitution will be opened to amendments.

Amendments

There is no limit to possible amendments, including extending the term of office of elected officials, granting the President permanent immunity from prosecution, or even changing the form of government to parliamentary for Gloria to stay in power.

Recently, I started sending text messages to some Congressmen including House Speaker Prospero Nograles explaining my dismay. “Why is it important to you now to amend the Constitution? Why now? Can’t it wait after 2010 presidential elections?”

Nograles answered and invited me to join the public hearing. So I told him that I am currently studying at the KSG Harvard but still continuing to be involved in our nation’s affairs.

I pointed out to him that one of the pressing issues is the agony of pre-need victims. He is also a victim of the Legacy Group according to newspaper reports.

Like Legacy, other defunct pre-need companies collected money from parents or retirees with the promise to pay future college tuition fees of their children or retirement benefits. But it declared bankruptcy when the contractual benefits started to be paid.

His next reply was they are studying it. Still studying it? Better to act now!

It is urgent to study the collapse of more than 50 pre-need companies in the last seven years; the original pre-need bill which was filed in 2003, intermittently discussed in Congress and lost its essence because of strong lobby of the industry federation; neglect of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in establishing rules and regulations that could have prevented the collapse of pre-need companies; mismanagement of pre-need trust funds; wrong practices of accountants and pre-need actuaries and irresponsible and unprofessional management.

Unsound pre-need firms

Had Congress timely acted on these, unsound pre-need companies would have been closed and would not have victimized more parents or retirees who lost hard-earned life savings for the college education of their children and retirement.

Nograles gave comforting assurance that Congress will return the money of pre-need victims.

I retorted: “Where are you going to get the money? Are you aware that the biggest company, CAP, has a fund deficiency of more than P15 billion in 2005? How much would it be if Pacific Plan, Legacy and 50 more closed pre-need companies are included? Where will you get more than 10 percent of our GDP to just return the money entrusted by the victims to pre-need companies? Not from our budget, which is still in deficit despite selling of government assets?”

Please, Congress, drop the Constitutional change for the meantime.

Focus now on crafting a really good pre-need law. See how pre-need victims can be compensated equitably; and punish the culprits.

Give hope to our future!

(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is a former insurance commissioner and SEC volunteer-actuary. Feedback at map@globelines.com.ph. For previous articles, please visit .)

February 22, 2009 - Posted by | Columns and Editorials | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Everyone!
    If you want to know more about the truth behind what really happened to the pre-need industries, just go to the link below.

    We are able to make the tagalog version of “The Truth About CAP”

    Please visit http://www.captruth.webs.com.ph

    You can leave questions, comments or suggestions if you must.

    Comment by Maria Ann | November 11, 2010


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