Ever since I started writing about the rights and privileges of senior citizens, particularly under Republic Act No. 9994, better known as the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010, I have been asked many questions in connection with issues related to the actual implementation of the law. Oftentimes the law is quite clear, but what is lacking is widespread dissemination for the benefit of both the business community as well as the concerned sector of society, our senior citizens who are sometimes referred to as the elderly.
Two weeks ago, an acquaintance joined our small group for a late breakfast at an old watering hole for golfers in the Greenhills area. It was a Monday morning and he proudly announced that he had just received his senior citizen identification card, officially proclaiming that he was 60 years old. He was profuse in extending his thanks for our contributions that have resulted in a better understanding of and compliance with the Senior Citizen Law. I was beginning to feel good until he blurted out, “I enjoy reading your column every day!” and then he heaped it on by adding, “It is the first thing I look for each morning.” I looked at my old buddies and we all laughed with one of them joining in the fun by saying that he also read my column every day.
Let me share with you some of the recent letters I have received from our fellow seniors relating their experiences with city ordinances that affect their daily lives.
Carmelita Go of Quezon City writes: “My husband is 78 years old, while I am 70 years old. We would like to know if the senior citizen card is good only in the city where the card is issued.”
She then explained that “SM North Edsa gives free parking for senior citizens but we were denied the same because our card was not issued in Quezon City. We decided to go to Quezon City Hall to apply for a senior card. Since we lived in Manila five years ago and moved to Quezon City, we told them we had a Manila-issued citizen card. The clerk said if we want a senior citizen card issued by them, we had to give up our Manila card and pay P100 for the new card. My husband did not see the logic and said we were no longer interested. The clerk then asked for our address and said, ‘We can settle the matter at home.’”
It appears that someone in City Hall wanted to make a few bucks and was even willing to go to the residence of the senior citizen to “settle the matter.”
First of all, when we buy medicines or dine at restaurants, the privilege of the senior citizen is honored regardless of where his senior citizen card is issued. By law, the card “shall be honored nationwide.” I have never come across a business establishment refusing to honor the senior citizen card simply because it was issued in another locality.
Insofar as the free parking at SM North is concerned, the Quezon City Ordinance of 2011 states that “All senior citizens of Quezon City are granted exemption from payment of parking fees for the first three hours. The senior citizen must be the driver or the passenger of the private vehicle and the privilege can be availed of on multiple occasions.”
Perhaps in this particular case, the Quezon City ordinance, as differentiated from the national law, specifically refers to senior citizens of the city. Sometimes our bureaucrats can be extremely narrow-minded; their ulterior motives make our lives more difficult. The fact that this clerk offered to go to their house indicates he had other things in mind. The head of the Quezon City Office of Senior Citizen Affairs should be able to act judiciously on this matter. A senior citizen is a senior citizen regardless of where he lives or where his card is issued. Of course that is my humble opinion.
Another experience from Cebu City, name not given.
“Two weeks ago, my wife and I had our annual physical checkup (we are in our seventies) at the Cebu Doctors Hospital in Cebu City. I had an ultrasound of the whole abdomen; my wife had a mammography, a sonomammography, and a transvaginal ultrasound. When I presented my Visa credit card, I was informed by the cashier that if paid by credit card, only a 15-percent discount would be given. The full 20 percent could be enjoyed only when paid in cash. Is this allowed?”
This is definitely not allowed. The IRR (implementing rules and regulations) on the law is very clear. “Section 4. Article 8. Credit card payments—The 20-percent discount and VAT exemption shall also apply to purchases of goods and services by senior citizens paying through credit cards.”
This reminds me of my experience many years ago with a Mercury Drug outlet in Quezon City. Over the years since a heart bypass operation, I have had medical needs for blood pressure control, diabetes and prostrate issues that kept mounting. With the increased cost of prescription drugs, the situation required a larger cash outlay each time I visited the drug store. I would attempt to use my credit card, but the clerk would always inform me that I could only enjoy the senior citizen discount with a cash payment. I did not know any better. And so I accepted with a growing feeling of frustration what was being unilaterally imposed by the business establishment.
Earlier, then Vice President Noli de Castro issued a communication informing senior citizens that they could avail of the 20-percent discount regardless of the manner of payment. He said that the law did not distinguish whether the payment was made in cash or with a credit card. Armed with a copy of the vice president’s letter, I proceeded to the Mercury Drug outlet prepared to use my credit card. To my chagrin, Mercury Drug refused to budge from its original position saying that the matter had to be referred to their main office for instructions.
I related my experience to Vice President De Castro and he immediately called for a meeting with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Finance Secretary Gary Teves, and Ms Vivian Ascona, president of Mercury Drug. The matter was threshed out and a few days later, the vice president’s office informed me that Mercury Drug had agreed to honor the senior citizen discount on payments made through the use of a credit card. After allowing some time to get the new arrangements in place, I decided to visit Mercury Drug for my usual replenishments. To my relief, the 20-percent discount was honored with my credit card!
Today, Mercury Drug has established a pattern of efficient service for senior citizens with its express lanes for the elderly.