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SSS cuts off widow’s death benefits for having new partner

A woman in Negros Occidental was surprised to find out she was no longer eligible to receive her late husband's death benefits from the Social Security System (SSS) after she started seeing someone else, GMA News' Mike Enriquez reported on Tuesday for "24 Oras."

Teresita Cahulao, a mother of seven, was widowed in 1990 when her husband Eduardo died of a stroke. She had been receiving P4,000 in monthly death benefits from the SSS since 1992, which helped with their family's finances.

Cahulao stopped receiving her husband's pension in 2006.

When she applied for her SSS pensioners' ID, she was told she could no longer receive the assistance since she was in a relationship with another partner.

"Sinabi sa akin na, 'Sa September wala ka nang pension. Cut off na.' Dahil raw may nobyo ako," the widow said.

"Nagpunta ako ng SSS. Magpapa-ID sana ako. Tinanong ako kung may nobyo ako. Siyempre. Babae ka, may nobyo ka. Tapos pinapirma ako sa blangkong papel. Pumirma naman ako," she added.

Cahulao also argued she and her partner were not married.

For their part, the SSS cited Office Order No. 2010-013 which states that a "surviving spouse" who re-marries or who enters into a "live-in" relationship with another person is disqualified from receiving the monthly death benefit.

"Ang SSS po ay isang social insurance so ang sinusuportahan namin, ang binibigyan namin ng tulong ay 'yung mga naka-depende doon sa miyembrong namatay," SSS Member Communications and Assistance Department manager Fernando Nicolas said.

As a "lifetime policy," death benefits under the clause cannot be restored once revoked, the SSS said.

"For example, nag-sama kayo nobyo ng isang taon tapos humiwalay na kayo, then after that year, you will inform SSS na, hoy, separated na ako doon sa aking kinasama...Hindi na  namin ibabalik 'yung pension," Nicolas added.

The SSS denied Cahulao's allegation that she was made to sign a blank sheet of paper.

"'Yung papirma ng blank na form, I think it's an ACOP form. It's an annual confirmation of pensioner's form wherein there is no blank there. Everything has a question wherein you write your answer. Rest assured that we are not doing that. Who are we to do that to our members," said SSS Visayas West One Division head Dr. Lilani Benedian.

The SSS also noted they have conducted an investigation into Cahulao's status stemming from a complaint from the relatives of the deceased.

"It's not easy for us to automatically suspend. Cancel. No. It has to be supported with investigation. The number one na mag-reklamo dito sa amin are those relatives. Most especially the in-laws and the neighbors. Of course, once they have complaints in our office, we have to act on it," Benedian added. — Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News