Press Release
January 27, 2009


Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas today said President Arroyo should stop taking over the functions of her Cabinet and instead order them to do their jobs, or be fired for being remiss in their duties.

Roxas in particular said President Arroyo should order Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairperson Fe Barin to address now the financial woes of the pre-need industry or be axed from her post.

"Ang mahalagang gawin ng Pangulo ay utusan niya 'yung mga dapat na sumubaybay dito (pre-need industry), ang SEC. Kung hindi, i-fire out niya, palitan niya (The President should order those supervising the pre-need industry, the SEC, to do their jobs. She should fire them, remove them if they cannot work well)," he said, adding there is no need for President Arroyo to name herself as "pre need czar."

He was referring to the new titles of the president - drug czar and environment czar- following the recent "Alabang Boys" controversy related to the illegal drugs trade and the country's renewed commitment to a world pledge to protect the environment.

"Minsan natatawa ako. Ano ang gagawin ngayon ng Pangulo? Magiging pre-need czar na din ba ang pangulo? Di ba ang Pangulo naging drug czar, naging climate change czar. Ngayon pre-need czar? (Sometimes I find things funny. What will the president do now? Name herself as pre need czar? She is the drug czar and climate change czar now, right?)" he asked.

He also said: "Kasi lahat naman nitong mga nakaupo, whether sa PDEA, sa Justice, sa environment lahat naman ng mga iyan ay appointee niya eh. Kaya hindi kinakailangan na maging czar siya, mag-insist lang siya. Gamitin niya ang kanyang kamay na bakal dito sa mga appointee niya para gawin nila ang tama para sa kapakanan ng tao (All these people in government, whether from the PDEA, justice department, environment, they are all presidential appointees. So there is no need for her to be czar of anything. She should just insist and order her men to do their jobs for the interest of the people)."

The chairman of the Senate trade and commerce committee said he would task the SEC to explain in a hearing set next week why it failed to act on the worsening financial conditions of pre-need companies in the country.

The pre-need industry is reportedly suffering from a P40-billion trust fund deficiency, with insiders acknowledging that the industry faces collapse due to the impact of the global financial crisis

"Matagal na kasing problema ito. Kaya sinasabi ko na kapabayaan nga ito, kapalpakan ito ng SEC na pinabayaan lang nilang mangyari 'yung gusto lang ng mga kumpanya at hindi nila iniisip ang interes ng mga plan holders. Ito ay nagpapakita ng kapabayaan, ng kapalpakan ng governance ng SEC, ng DoF at pati na din ni Pangulong Arroyo. Dahil itong problemang ito matagal na ito at ngayon ay pumutok na naman dahil walang ginawa in the meantime (This has long been a problem of the pre-need industry. That's why I am saying that the SEC was remiss in its duties because it allowed the problem to get worse. This shows failure in the governance by the SEC, the DoF and the President herself)," he said.

The Ilonggo senator said the SEC could have stopped the bleeding of the industry if it acted on time or controlled the dissipation of the firms' assets.

"The SEC is the entity that supervises them. May kapangyarihan ang SEC para hindi ma-dissipate, hindi mawala ang mga assets na ito, mabantayan ang halaga nito. May poder ang SEC na subaybayan o i-take over ang mga ito (The SEC has the power to control the dissipation of these firms' assets)," he said.

On reports that a brother of President Arroyo is now sitting as a board member of the country's biggest pre-need company, the College Assurance Plan (CAP), Roxas said the SEC should be clear that it's role is to protect the interest of the investing public, not those sitting in government.

"Anong babantayan ng SEC? Ang interest, ang kapakanan ng plan holders? O ang pagtatakip nitong mga anomalya na bunga nitong mga hindi pagbayad ng mga tuition ng mga estudyante (What will the SEC prioritize? The interest of the planholders? Or will it cover up for the anomalies of these firms?)" he asked.

Roxas has filed Senate Resolution No. 849 asking the Senate committee on trade and commerce to look into the reported impending collapse of the pre-need industry.

SEC records reveal a downward slide in the sale of pre-need firms, from P17.51 billion in 2007 to only P13.97 billion (or a 20% drop) in 2008. Education plan sales dropped by 54% from P3.65 billion to P1.66 billion.

"Pre-need plans are designed to help people in availing of pension and education services at a later point in time, thus there is a compelling need to ensure appropriate safeguards to protect planholders as consumers," he stressed.

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