Apir and proof of life
I first got my GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) retirement pension after I turned 65 in 2017. At that time, I opted to get a five-year lump sum since I was still serving as UP Diliman chancellor and would continue getting a monthly salary.
My retirement benefit voucher did have a Halloween-ish note to the effect that my monthly pension would resume after my 70th birthday … “if living.”
The five years flew by quickly, but weeks after my 70th birthday, the monthly pensions had not resumed. I waited till the eighth of the following month, which is the day pensions are released. Still nothing.
So I checked with UP and learned that I had to go to GSIS to reactivate my pension by filling out a form, making sure I gave updated contact information, bank details, and all that. After the GSIS staff checked my papers, he had me pose for a photograph with a sign that read Apir, with the date I was at their office.
That meant Annual Pensioners’ Information Revalidation, and yes, it will have to be repeated every year. (Fortunately, this can also be done electronically after the initial Apir for the monthly pensions.)
The private sector’s Social Security System (SSS) pension payments use a different term, similar to Apir. With SSS, it’s called “proof of life,” something which I first encountered with banks. When a joint account has been dormant for some time and one of the account holders can no longer go to the bank because of their age, relatives have to take a photograph of the senior citizen, holding a newspaper with a recent date.
A bank branch manager explained to me it didn’t matter if the senior citizen is barely alive. “Basta buhay,” she said, “as long as they’re still alive, even if barely.”
I did wonder if “proof of life” was a uniquely Filipino practice, given our low levels of trust in the government and in each other, and the constant need for certifications and notarized documents.
Just look at all those signs that read “This lot is NOT for sale.” The frauds around land sales come about because of our chaotic land registration system, which will supposedly be rationalized following former president Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Republic Act No. 11573 last year, simplifying land titling procedures, but there are fears that the simplified procedures might actually benefit land grabbing.
Going back to certifications, one of my favorites is Cenomar, which, given the Filipino penchant for unique names, just might end up assigned to some poor kid.
Cenomar is not, should not, be a name. What it means is a Certificate of No Marriage, issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority after they’ve checked their databases and found you have never been married.
Cenomar is intended to prevent bigamy, so important, especially in the Philippines, which is one of only two states left in the world that does not allow divorce. The other state that does not recognize divorce is the Vatican, where many of its residents aren’t supposed to get married in the first place.
It turns out there are similar certifications required by other governments, for example, Australia has its Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage. “No impediment” is used instead of “no marriage” since citizens there, and the rest of the world, could have been married before, but they got a divorce.
Back to “proof of life.” That term is used universally and most often for an unpleasant purpose. This happens with kidnapping cases, where the kidnapper can be asked to furnish proof that the kidnapped is still alive. This can be furnishing information known only to the victim and his or her family, and, as with banks, a photograph with proof that the victim is still alive on a certain date.
Between Apir and “proof of life,” I find the former more appealing, with a sense of humor. The GSIS staff can lighten the day preparing the senior citizen to be photographed with a gentle question if he or she has dentures on and then calling out, “Ready, set, Apir.”
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