Sunday, October 03, 2004

Winston Garcia and the Plunder of GSIS

A welfare agency is supposed to look after its members so its funds must be managed well and spent prudently. However, as alleged by critics, it takes only one abusive, highly paid official to profit from the moneys contributed by underpaid employees, much to the consternation of the supposed beneficiaries.


This government corporation was established for a good cause but it has now become a symbol of corruption.

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) was created by Commonwealth Act No. 186 on November 14, 1936, a year after the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth. It was mandated to provide and administer compulsory and optional life insurance, retirement benefits, disability benefits for work-related contingencies and death benefits.

Today, about 1.5 million government employees from various agencies, local government units and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) are members of the GSIS.

The GSIS’ workforce currently consists of 3,104 employees, 52 percent of whom are in the head office at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex in Pasay City. The remaining 48 percent are in the 48 branches and 78 satellite offices nationwide. They are unionized under the Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa GSIS (KMG or workers union) which has about 800 members in the head office alone.

Lost mandate?

Lawyer Jose Cortes, a former director of the Bureau of Legal Assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform, told Bulatlat over the weekend that today, the GSIS has almost lost its mandate. “Nakalimutan na ang element of service” (They have already forgotten the element of service.).

Cortes retired in 2000 when he reached the retirement age of 65. He enjoyed medical assistance benefit during the first three years of his retirement. However, since mid-2003, he has not received a single cent of his medical assistance benefit.

He said he has traveled back and forth from his home in Malabon to the GSIS head office in Pasay City to inquire about his reimbursements. “The last time I asked, I was told that there is no fund to pay for my medical needs,” Cortes said.

Lost billions

KMG President Albert Velasco, who is also a lawyer, said in a separate interview with Bulatlat, that the GSIS acquires billions every month from the employees’ mandatory contributions. These contributions, called premiums, should go directly to the trust fund, he explained.

Citing the annual report of the GSIS for 2003, premium payments totaled P40 billion ($710.48 million, based on an exchange rate of P56.30 per US dollar) reported under the social insurance fund.
Velasco alleged that the money is being used by GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia for his “personal quirks.”

Documents acquired by the KMG show that Garcia made the following extravagant investments: a P1-billion ($17.76-million) loan to the Public Estates Authority; purchase of a P611.8-million ($10.87-million) property in London to pay for the Philippine Embassy office there; and the purchase of various paintings, among them Juan Luna’s Parisian Life which cost the GSIS P45.4 million ($806,394.32).

In his first 10 months in office, Garcia had cash advances amounting to P5.25 million ($93,250.44).
From September 2003 to July 2004, records showed that Garcia had P6,883,006.63 ($122,255.89) in miscellaneous disbursements.

He approved a P700-million ($12.43 million) computerization project even if, according to the KMG, the same computer functions and programs can be obtained for P40 million ($710,479.57) through the GSIS branches.

Garcia also spends P300,000 ($5,328.60) a month for advertisements while spending another P200,000 ($3,552.40) a month for personal legal assistance.

It is this alleged grave misuse of the government employees’ pension fund that has kept Garcia under fire and it comes as no surprise that there is now a groundswell of support for his ouster.

Garcia has denied all charges and challenged his critics to face him in court. His superior, President Macapagal-Arroyo, has asked the embattled GSIS president to explain and she made assurances that everything will be transparent. Bulatlat


jiebesate said...

The All UP Workers Union Manila (AUPWU Manila) fully supports the call of the KMG (Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa GSIS) for the OUSTER and PROSECUTION of GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia. As our manifestation of support, our Chapter President and three other chapter officers together with our National President, the Diliman Chapter President and three other members participated in the picket rally in front of the GSIS Central Office held yesterday morning, October 4, 2004. The picket rally was spearheaded by the KMG, and participated by affiliate unions of COURAGE, AHW and ACT.

All UP Academic Employees Union said...

The All-UP Academic Employees Union has just created its own blog spot. Please refer to it for the latest information on the sister union of the ALl-UP Workers Union