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SSS freezes execs in stock-trade scandal

By Riza Lozada

State pension fund Social Security System (SSS) said it reassigned four officials who are the subject of complaints of profiting from their posts.

SSS Commissioner Jose Gabriel La Viña filed the complaints that raised an uproar triggering worries over the state of the fund.

SSS said the re-assignments of executives have been implemented in the exigency of service.

It added the action will also pave way for an objective, transparent, and fair investigation of the on-going administrative complaint.

Due process will be strictly observed in the investigation. Charges in the administrative complaint are still subject for further investigation, it added.

It said the reassignments will avoid any suspicion that the on-going investigation will be white-washed.

SSS also assured its members that the Investment Reserve Fund, which came from members’ contributions and investment income, is intact, well-protected, and professionally managed.

The management would also like to assure its members that no SSS fund was used or compromised in the issue, it added.

La Viña has filed the complaint against SSS Executive vice president for investments Rizaldy Capulong, equities investment division chief Reginald Candelaria, equities product development head Ernesto Francisco Jr. and chief actuary George Ongkeko Jr.

La Viña alleged that the four are liable for “serious dishonesty and grave misconduct” since some of them used SSS-accredited stock brokers for their own financial benefit.

He said the previous SSS administration prevented possible abuses by its investment officers by requiring them to declare all their investments and have these approved by their superiors.

He said Candelaria and Francisco endorsed each other’s stock holdings and these were approved by Capulong.

He added that these stocks were handled by SSS-accredited stockbrokers even if one of these brokers only handles high net worth investors and corporates.

Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr., meanwhile, urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Office of the Ombudsman and the Capital Markets Integrity Corp. (CMIC) to investigate the alleged self-dealing by the SSS officials.

“We are astounded at the manner in which the SSS’s second-highest ranking executive officer and three subordinates allegedly took advantage of their positions in transactions and acted for their own interests, rather than for the interests of the pension fund,” Campos, a deputy minority leader, said.

“They may have committed prohibited dealings under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Ant-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. This is why the NBI and the Ombudsman should get involved,” Campos said.

Campos urged the NBI to perform a “forensic accounting” on the private stock trades of the executives who are now facing an administrative complaint for “serious dishonesty and grave misconduct” before the Social Security Commission, the pension fund’s governing board.

Under the law, Campos said public officials and employees are forbidden from having a financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office, and from misusing for their private interests classified information known to them by reason of their office.

The complaint alleged that Candelaria and Francisco in particular used information they obtained from an accredited SSS broker to “profit” from the initial public offerings (IPOs) of five companies, instead of recommending them to the Social Security Commission.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) should act fast and direct the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to issue Immigration Lookout Bulletin Orders (ILBOs) on four top-level officials of state pension fund Social Security System (SSS) who used their office for personal financial gains, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said.

Castelo hailed La Viña for coming forward to bare irregularities in the agency and urged more government officials to act as watchdogs of public funds.

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