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The Social Security System (SSS) has placed advertisements in large-format newspapers listing the names of some of its deceased members and their beneficiaries who have not applied for the death benefit to which they are entitled.

The notices direct beneficiaries to contact the main SSS office in Quezon City or any SSS office closest to their place of residence to file a death benefit claim within 90 days of the date the announcement is posted.

Some of the last known addresses of beneficiaries are described as “unknown” or “not specified”. Members may have inadvertently failed to complete this element when completing the SSS Membership Form.

Known addresses span the entire length of the Philippines, from urban areas to municipalities in remote provinces.

Under the law, the primary beneficiaries of a deceased SSS member, i.e. the dependent spouse until remarriage, and legitimate, legitimized, legally adopted and illegitimate dependent children under the age of 21 years old, unpaid and single, are entitled to a death benefit if the deceased participant has paid at least 36 monthly contributions before his death.

If there are no first beneficiaries, the dependent parents of the participant are entitled to the benefit. In the absence of the parents, the benefit will go to the named beneficiary of the participant and his legal heirs.

Considering the number of announcements that the SSS has placed (for a few months until now), there must be thousands of beneficiaries who have not yet received the death benefit to which they are entitled.

They are probably not aware of their entitlement to this benefit; or if they are, they don’t know how to go about claiming it; or if they have been designated as beneficiaries in the latter category, they have not been informed by the member of this designation.

Note that death is usually not a welcome topic of discussion in the family circle, so any mention of it and who gets what in case a family member kicks the bucket is frowned upon.

Whatever the amount, the death benefit would undoubtedly be useful to its beneficiaries, especially if the deceased member was the breadwinner. This is a small return on investment for the member’s SSS dues.

The publication of these advertisements is commendable, but if the SSS wants its message to reach a wider audience, it should also consider publishing similar notices in local newspapers where many beneficiaries reside.

It is common knowledge that the reach of large format newspapers is quite limited as they circulate mainly or are distributed in urban areas and economically developed municipalities.

Keep in mind that people who live outside of highly urbanized areas or in municipalities served by local newspapers, by and large, know or know many of their fellow citizens.

When readers of these newspapers see familiar names in the advertisement, it is quite possible that, out of a sense of pakikisama (brotherhood), they are looking for them or asking anyone who knows them to inform them of the death benefit.

Considering the ease with which text messages can be sent and exchanged today, the transmission of information will not be difficult, let alone much expense.

And if local radio advertisers see the advertisement, chances are they will broadcast it as part of their public service and ask their listeners to pass the information on to the designated beneficiaries.

While it is true that English is generally understood in most parts of the country, it would help if the ad was written in the dialect widely used in the area where the local newspaper is distributed.

The SSS would accomplish two things through this program, namely that its advertising would reach its target audience and increase the revenue stream of local newspapers.

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