BASED ON the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB) Medium Assumption Population Projection, as of calendar year 2010, there were an estimated 6.3 million elderly Filipinos aged 60 years and above. We represent a little over 6 percent of the total population but the total is expected to be more than 10 percent by 2020. By the way, all are of voting age. Very important for politicians and assorted government bureaucrats to keep in mind, particularly those inclined to fool around with senior citizen benefits. Let me remind the government that the Philippine Constitution is quite clear on the subject of the elderly. Article XIII, section 11 states: ?There shall be priority for the needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women and children. The State shall endeavor to provide free medical care to paupers.?
Republic Act No. 9994, the expanded law on senior citizen privileges, is in line with the fulfillment of the obligation of government to protect the most vulnerable sector of our society.
The Implementing Rules and Regulations of the new law provide for a Social Pension as well as mandatory PhilHealth coverage for indigent senior citizens.
Social Pension?Pursuant to the eligibility criteria as determined by the DSWD, indigent senior citizens shall be entitled to a monthly stipend amounting to P500 to augment the daily subsistence and medical needs of senior citizens. This social pension shall be subject to a review every two years by Congress, in consultation with the DSWD.
Mandatory PhilHeath coverage?all indigent senior citizens shall be covered by the National Health Insurance Program of PhilHealth. Local government units where indigent senior citizens reside shall allocate the necessary funds to ensure coverage of their indigent senior citizens.
You will note that the key word here is ?indigent.? Not all senior citizens are covered by this provision. The Social Pension for indigents institutionalizes the social protection for senior citizens in dire need, as called for by the Constitution.
Who are considered indigent senior citizens? What are the conditions and eligibility criteria for indigent senior citizens?
The Social Pension for indigent senior citizens will be implemented nationwide and will take into consideration the following:
First priority?80 years old and above
Second priority?70 to 79 years old
Third priority?60 to 69 years old
2. Economic status?The senior citizen should not be receiving any pension from the GSIS, SSS or AFP-MBAI, and any other insurance company. He must be without a permanent source of income, and receives no regular support from relatives to meet basic needs as determined by the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) and senior citizen organizations.
In the definition of terms as laid down by the DSWD under Administrative Order No. 15, titled: ?Guidelines on the Implementation of the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens,? the indigent senior citizen or social pensioner refers to a qualified senior citizen who is frail, sickly or with disability and without pension or permanent source of income or regular support from relatives to meet basic needs as determined by the DSWD National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR).
(There appears to be some confusion here as to which offices make certain determinations.)
Out of the 6.3 million elderly Filipinos, the magnitude of poor senior citizens is approximately 1.3 million, with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) posting the highest poverty incidence although the biggest number of poor senior citizens are from Regions V, VI and VII.
This year, the approved DSWD budget for social pensioners is P871 million. This can cover 145,167 indigent senior citizens, at P6,000 per individual. So far, the DSWD has identified approximately 71,300 indigents in the 80-89 age bracket. They have also identified some 11,069 indigents in the 90-99 age category. This is a total of 82,369 indigents in the first priority. This means that there is room to take some of those in the second priority covering age 70-79-year-old indigents.
This list is not final and the names have yet to be validated at the local level. This is where the OSCA comes in. Administrative Order No. 15 designates the local OSCA as the lead agency in the implementation of the Social Pension (SP) program in coordination with the City/Municipality Social Welfare and Development Office.
The OSCA plays a very important role in the program. For instance, it facilitates validation, enrollment, cancellation and updating of SP lists. It acts as the grievance committee and responds to complaints and queries. Together with the social welfare and development office and senior citizen organizations, OSCA determines the final list of social pensioners and immediately informs the beneficiaries by written notification. It also advocates the allocation of additional funds for the SP program implementation in their respective cities or municipalities. One can appreciate how critical is the function of OSCA.
Considering the poor record of OSCA (I am not pinpointing any particular city or municipality) in attending to senior citizen complaints, I have strong fears that the OSCA will be overwhelmed by the added work called for in implementing the SP program. They do not have the personnel, the facilities and, sad to say, they may lack the dedication and determination to attend to indigent senior citizen needs. In your own localities, how many complaints filed with the OSCA were acted upon promptly and effectively?
There is still a lot of work to be done before the SP program can finally be on stream. One other major problem has to do with the mode of payment. Will it be by Globe?s G-Cash Remit which provides the cheapest and largest network for money transfers within the Philippines? Or will it be a payout through Land Bank, or another commercial bank as was done in a similar situation by the previous administration to favor cronies?
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Remember the case of Arturo Co, a senior citizen member of Wack Wack Golf and Country Club? Co filed a complaint against Carte Blanche Food Service Corporation, a corporation doing business at the Wack Wack Club, for refusing him the 20-percent senior citizen discount. The Mandaluyong Legal Department ruled that Carte Blanche is an independent concessionaire and must therefore comply with the Senior Citizen Law as regards Co?s request for a discount.
The matter is now in the hands of Wack Wack management and is being closely monitored by senior citizens of the Club to see what action is taken.