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Filipino of the Year

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It is not often that I come out with my choice for the outstanding individual of the year. But these are unusual times marked by difficult and far-reaching accomplishments, and we need to recognize the leadership that made them possible.

In the latest issue of Time magazine, US President Barack Obama tells us why Abraham Lincoln is his favorite president. He said “Part of what Lincoln teaches is that to pursue the highest ideals and a deeply moral cause requires that you engage and get your hands dirty. And there are trade-offs and there are compromises. Anything we do is going to be somewhat imperfect.”

Obama goes on to say that the power of the presidency is oftentimes overstated. But what the president has is the capacity to set directions for the future.

For his leadership in providing new directions for our country, using up precious political capital to further his beliefs, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is my choice for “Filipino of the Year.”

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Let me close out the year with this space devoted to our senior citizens.

First we have a letter from Juanito Rimando, PMA class 1962. He relates his experience during some Christmas shopping last week at the Pioneer Center Supermart in Pasig City. When he presented his purchases to include items covered by the senior citizen law, he was informed that if he were to pay using a credit card, he could not avail himself of the senior citizen discount. To confirm this policy, he passed by the Customer Assistance counter where he was informed that this was exactly company policy.

Hello! Pioneer Center Supermart, where have you been all these years? The IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, specifically Article 8 of Rule IV,  Privileges for the Senior Citizen, reads as follows: “The 20 percent discount and VAT exemption shall also apply to purchases of goods and services by senior citizens paying through credit cards.”

I recall that this issue was settled almost five years ago when then-Vice President Noli de Castro convened a meeting of Cabinet officials to provide guidance on the matter. Their decision was institutionalized with the issuance of the implementing rules allowing payments in cash or by credit card as stated above.

At the same time, Rimando praises SM Megamall supermarket where he and his wife received courteous and efficient service for senior citizen purchases.

We also have a letter from Linda Javier of Marilao, Bulacan. She identifies herself as a 66-year-old senior citizen and a diabetic. Since she was leaving for abroad, she decided to purchase diabetes maintenance medicine for two months, the duration of her trip outside the country.

Linda proceeded to Watson’s drugstore in Marilao. They informed her that she could avail herself of the senior citizen discount for one month’s worth of medicines. She would have to pay the full price for the second month of her maintenance requirements. To convince them of the emergency nature of her situation, she presented flight tickets indicating that she would be out of the Philippines for two months. Watson insisted that company policy called for the sale of only one-month supply with the discount.

Linda related that she then went to Mercury Drugstore in nearby Meycauayan, and told them her story. “Mercury Drug gave me no problems and said they were willing to sell me the medicines needed for two months with the 20-percent senior citizen discount, and that is where I bought my needs.”

Her question: “How come Watson’s cannot do it and yet, Mercury could?”

Actually, the implementing rules are silent on this matter. But I would venture to express my personal opinion that having seen proof of Linda’s travel schedule, Watson’s should have exhibited some degree of flexibility in applying company policy. The reason for imposing limitations is to prevent abuse of the senior citizen privilege. Perhaps, Watson’s management can take a second look at this policy so as to allow some leeway under certain circumstances.

On another senior citizen concern, we wish to mention that there has been no word from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health on the results of a meeting that was scheduled to take up a possible reclassification of certain special nutritional supplements such as Ensure and Glucerna. These preparations are at present considered ordinary food items not covered by the senior citizen law, although the bulk of their consumers come from the elderly who take them as prescribed by doctors.

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Every now and then, we come across public servants who go out of their way to extend assistance in emergency situations during the holidays.

Assistant Secretary Jaime Victor Ledda, Office of Consular Affairs, and Mr. Tomara Ayo, OIC, DFA NCR West Office at SM Manila, went beyond the call of duty to lend a helping hand when it was most needed. Congratulations and may your tribe increase!

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A golfer’s prayer.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus Christ, our pro who shows us how to get the right grip in life; to slow down in our backswing; to correct our crazy hooks and slices; to keep our head down in humility; and to follow through with self-control. May he teach us also to be good sports who will accept the rub of the green; the penalty for being out of bounds; the reality of lost balls; the relevancy of par; and the dangers of the 19th hole.

And Lord, when the last putt has dropped into the cup, and the light of our last day has faded into darkness—though our trophies be few, and the hole-in-one still only a dream, may we be able to turn in to You—our Tournament Director—an honest scorecard for all our efforts.

Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen. (Author unknown)

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