Indigent seniors of Ayala Alabang
A few weeks ago, I was at a social gathering at the Ayala Alabang Country Club. As the evening progressed, for some reason the conversation drifted to the subject of senior citizens and their privileges, and I was asked if I had been receiving my senior citizen pension. I replied that I was not a recipient of such a pension since I was not qualified under the law for this type of assistance. For one thing, I am an AFP pensioner.
My dinner companion informed me that his mother-in-law who lives with them in Ayala Alabang and is in her nineties, receives a senior citizen pension of P500 monthly, or P1,500 quarterly, from the local Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca). This information caught me by surprise.
Let me elaborate on a few things.
The IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of Republic Act No. 9994, known as the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010,” provides for the following: Article 20 of Rule V on Additional Government Assistance reads: “Pursuant to the eligibility criteria as may be determined by the DSWD, indigent senior citizens shall be entitled to a monthly stipend (also known as a social pension) amounting to P500 to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs of senior citizens. The grant of the social pension shall be subject to a review every two years by Congress in consultation with the DSWD within three months after convening the Congress.”
Under Rule III (Definition of Terms), Article 5.26 defines an indigent senior citizen as “any elderly who is frail, sickly, or with disability, and without pension or regular source of income, compensation, or financial assistance from his/her relatives to support his/her basic needs as determined by the DSWD in consultation with the National Coordinating and Monitoring Board (NCMB).” In addition, let me add that Webster’s Dictionary defines an “indigent” as a poor, impoverished, destitute or deprived individual.
It is difficult to understand how any senior citizen living in a community like Ayala Alabang can possibly be considered an indigent. He/she may not have any pension or regular source of income, but living with the family or with relatives in one of the most expensive villages in the country provides him/her with enough assistance not just to support his/her basic needs but also to enjoy other amenities in life.
This may be an isolated case; but as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is possibly fire. It would be a simple matter to find out what the real situation is. The DSWD, in its capacity as chair of the interagency body on the Senior Citizen Law, has primary responsibility for the proper implementation of this law. The DSWD, through its local units or the Osca, can easily check the rolls of senior citizens living in communities like Ayala Alabang to find out who are enjoying this particular social pension and whether conditions for such grants were properly observed and complied with. I hope the situation is indeed an isolated case brought about by bureaucratic negligence that should be corrected.
Some communities are richer than others, and thus have more funds available for social welfare projects. Perhaps, the utilization of such resources should be aimed at providing a wider coverage for the needs of the marginalized sectors of society.
While on the subject of the Senior Citizen Law, let me relate the experience of an elderly at a restaurant in Quezon City.
The senior citizen took a table at Yabu: House of Katsu, at Robinsons Magnolia in New Manila. He proceeded to order one of the popular dishes of the house, but when he presented his senior citizen (SC) card, he was informed that this particular dish was on a special promo price and, therefore, he could not avail of the SC discount.
My comments: First of all, when a standard promo price for a particular dish is made available to everyone, young or old, it automatically erases the senior citizen status of the elderly, and in effect denies the senior citizen the benefit of the law.
Second, the law on promotional discounts (Article 9, Rule IV, Privileges for the Senior Citizen) reads: “In the purchase of goods and services, which are on promotional discounts, the senior citizen can avail of the establishment’s offered discount, or the 20% discount provided by law, whichever is higher and more favorable.” How can the customer make any decision on his choice when he is told bluntly that the SC discount is not allowed because of the “promo price”?
Remember this when and if you dine out at Yabu: House of Katsu.
As a final note, let me say that the Senior Citizen Law has come a long way in terms of implementation and assistance to the elderly population. There was a time when business establishments refused credit card payments from senior citizens and demanded cash for the discount to be honored, or accepted card payments at reduced discounts. They would give 10 percent instead of the 20 percent called for by law.
It was then Vice President Noli de Castro who ironed out the problem when he called a meeting attended by then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, and Mercury Drug president Vivian Ascona. After the meeting De Castro issued a statement that “As the main author of the law and chair of the Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development, in the 12th Congress, I would like to assure senior citizens that they can avail themselves of the 20-percent discount regardless of the manner of payment, whether cash or credit card.” I remember thanking the vice president for his prompt response in attending to the matter.
Today the three most important cards in my wallet are my driver’s license, my credit card and my senior citizen identification card.
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