Better treatment of PWDs
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) gave the country’s approximately 1.5 million persons with disability (PWDs) a big lift with its speedy issuance of the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 10754, the law that expands their benefits and privileges.
The law took effect last March after it was signed by then President Benigno Aquino III. What usually takes at least a year for government offices to prepare, the DSWD did in less than nine months.
Aside from the 20-percent discount on certain products and services—e.g., food commodities, medicines, medical consultation fees, restaurant charges and admission in cinema houses—PWDs are now exempted from the value-added tax (VAT) on such goods and services.
And because taking care of PWDs often entails additional expenses, the law allows them to be treated as dependents of taxpayers who are within their fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity and therefore entitled to tax deduction under the Tax Code.
With the legal framework already in place, the next item in the DSWD’s agenda should be ensuring that the law is properly implemented in order to meet its objectives.
It will be recalled that confusion attended the earlier enforcement of the 20-percent discount and VAT exemption on certain goods and services for senior citizens. Business establishments, especially food outlets and hotels, made varying interpretations of the discount and exemption rules. Some kept to the spirit of the law and applied it liberally in favor of the senior citizens; others adopted a restrictive approach and reduced the deductions to the barest minimum, with doubts resolved against the senior citizens.
Various schemes were used to circumvent the law, such as attaching “promo” labels on certain goods to supposedly justify their exclusion from senior-citizen discount, barring discount on purchases made through credit cards, and rejecting proof of senior-citizen status other than senior citizen identification cards issued by local government units.
The motive behind such actions was to put the senior citizens in an embarrassing position to discourage them from demanding the benefits and privileges that are rightfully due them under the law.
These incidents abated only after numerous civic organizations raised a howl and the media gave wide publicity to the suit filed by a lawyer against two restaurants that refused to comply with the law. In the wake of the adverse publicity and threat of criminal liability, the operators of the food outlets apologized for their action and, in exchange for the withdrawal of the case, donated money to institutions that take care of senior citizens.
With the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs of local government units taking a more proactive stance, the treatment of senior citizens has, by and large, lately been satisfactory.
Setting aside the legal niceties, and if only for humanitarian reasons, PWDs should be spared from the demeaning experience that many senior citizens earlier went through.
Considering the odds that PWDs have to battle to get jobs that pay decent wages, or engage in the activities of normal daily living, or be productive and useful members of the community, it certainly is not too much to ask that those “perks” be given without their having to ask, or if asked, given without accompanying condescending looks or snide remarks.
There is no excuse for the business establishments that are covered by the VAT exemption on PWDs to delay its implementation, much less raise issues about the manner of its application.
The formula that is currently being used to compute the discount and VAT exemption given to senior citizens applies squarely to PWDs. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
Raul J. Palabrica (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.
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