The state-run Social Security System (SSS) lauded the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA), affirming the prison term imposed by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) on celebrity dermatologist Joel C. Mendez for his failure to remit more than P1.8 million monthly premiums to the pension fund while urging delinquent employers to apply for the ongoing contributions condonation penalty program.
SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Aurora C. Ignacio said the decision of the CA to uphold the seven-year jail term imposed by the RTC for Mendez’s violation of Republic Act 8282 or Social Security Law of 1997 was a clear indication that no one is above the law.
“We are very pleased that the CA upheld the decision of the QC RTC. This serves as a reminder to employers on their obligations under the law to religiously remit to the SSS the monthly premiums of their employees,” SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Aurora C. Ignacio said.
In a resolution released on 16 April, written by Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Mendez and the plea to inhibit the appellate court justices from resolving his case.
Mendez, who owns a chain of dermatology clinics in the country, was sentenced in July 2016 by QC RTC Branch 88 Judge Rosanna Fe Romero Maglaya to be imprisoned, ranging from a minimum of six years and one day to a maximum of seven years, and to pay P15,000 worth of fine to the government.
It also directed Mendez to pay SSS a total of P1,865,657.50 representing unpaid contributions from October 2011 to January 2013 with an interest of 3 percent per month from July 2015 until full payment.
Ignacio advised employers to apply for the ongoing SSS contributions penalty condonation program to prevent facing similar consequence. The program will only run until September 1, 2019.
“The new Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 provides assistance to delinquent employers by including a provision on the contributions penalty condonation program to help them settle their obligations and prevent their case from reaching the judiciary. Our legislators understand that many employers want to pay their employees’ contributions but encountered business mishaps in the past. Now is the best time to settle any unpaid employee contributions with the nearest SSS branch in your area and avail of the ongoing contributions penalty condonation program for employers,” Ignacio said.
In March, the SSS started receiving applications and proposals from employers who have expressed their intent to avail of the contributions penalty condonation program for employers.
Based on SSS Circular 2019-004, employers who are qualified to avail of the program are those who have not yet registered with SSS including household employers, those with pending or approved proposal under the installment scheme of SSS, those with pending or approved application under the program for acceptance of properties through dacion en pago of SSS.
In addition, delinquent employers with cases pending before the Commission, Courts or Office of the Prosecutor involving the collection of contributions and/or penalties, including those against whom judgment has been rendered involving the collection of contribution and/or penalties but have not complied with the judgment can also apply for the one-time amnesty program on unpaid contributions.
Even those who settled all contributions before the effectivity of RA 11199 but with unpaid penalties, and those who were given a Warrant of Distraint/Levy/Garnishment (WDLG) or encumbrance can apply for the ongoing condonation program on unpaid premiums of employers.
It is also stated that the employer may opt to submit an installment proposal to the Head of the SSS Branch/Office or Large Account Department. The installment payments shall bear an interest of 6 percent per annum.
Upon submission of the proposal, the employer must remit a downpayment equivalent to at least 5 percent of its total contribution delinquency. The employer should also submit a promissory note promising to pay the balance of the delinquency in equal monthly installments within a period of four years with the first monthly installment paid within 30 days after the date of approval of the proposal.
“The installment payments shall bear an interest of 6 percent per annum,” the circular read.
“We highly encourage the employers to avail of the program as it will be offered only for six months. This is your chance to remit to SSS unpaid premiums, so your employees can fully enjoy all the benefits of the pension fund,” Ignacio said.
Short-term loan privileges of qualified employees will be restored upon full payment of the unpaid contributions by the employer.
SSS urged more than 132,000 employers to avail of the program which is expected to benefit close to 1.4 million employees in the private sector.