‘High bloods’ exert pressure
The title may sound semantic but senior citizens belonging to the “high blood” sector voiced a unified stand during the initial hearing last Feb. 19 at the House of Representatives’ committee on government reorganization on two bills seeking to establish the National Senior Citizens Commission. This
commission is envisioned to be the national and centralized government agency that will address the general welfare of senior citizens.
The “high bloods,” this writer included, felt their blood pressure rise when the author of the bill, Rep. Francisco G. Datol Jr. of the Senior Citizens party-list revealed that some seniors or elderly managed to get the “social pension” intended for indigents, even if some of them are employed and actually income-earners.
This was confirmed by seniors coming from Quezon City and other parts of the country. Some officials from the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) reported that some local government units influenced the grant of benefits and privileges for seniors. This further raised the BP of seniors.
Osca officials from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, led by the president and vice president of the national association of Osca officers, attended the initial hearing. Representatives from organizations of senior citizens actively participated in the discussion of the bills.
Finding their collective voice, the “high bloods” agreed to support the following:
1) Endorse the creation of the National Senior Citizens Commission as a national, centralized body to promote, protect and regulate the welfare of seniors, free from politics.
2) Eliminate or avoid multiple requirements of securing many certifications from national agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, PhilHealth, Philippine Statistics Authority and in addition, the local government units.
3) Standardize rules on availing of benefits.
4) Redefine “indigent” by removing the health aspect. Once poor and without income, they are already considered indigent.
5) Standardize the pension system by providing equal benefits to seniors.
6) Define or standardize acceptable evidence of age to identify being senior.
7). Provide adequate budget for the commission to insulate itself from politics.
To all of the above, I added a gentle reminder to all involved in the enactment of the law this fair warning: Every minute, people age. Tatanda rin kayo, better act now.
MAFEO R. VIBAL, vice president-external affairs and legislative liaison officer, Philippine Association of Retired Persons
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