CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Members of senior citizen organizations are pushing for equal opportunities for the elderly in getting social pensions.
In an interview on Thursday, Benjamin Medina Sr., 80, president of the Office for Senior Citizens’ Affairs (OSCA) in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental, said present social pension programs need to become inclusive.
“Whether you are poor or a retiree from the government or private sector, everyone should be getting social pension,” he said.
Medina, who is also the national president of the Federation of Senior Citizens of the Philippines, noted that current social pensions are only available to those considered “indigent,” leaving out retirees who worked in industries because they are getting retirement pensions from either the Social Security System or the Government Service Insurance System.
During the October 26 and 27 regional summit organized by OSCA and the National Commission on Senior Citizens (NCSC) here, Medina brought up the concern and other issues affecting the elderly.
“We are hoping that they will listen to our concerns, as they [NCSC] explained to us, their directions are promising,” Medina said.
NCSC Commissioner Edwin Espejo said the series of consultations in the Northern Mindanao region forms part of its aim to listen to different OSCA stakeholders, especially in guiding the creation of implementing rules and regulations that would transfer programs for senior citizens from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“We want to strengthen the enforcement of laws and policies that sought to protect the rights of our senior citizens,” he said.
According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 12,336,355 Filipinos are 60 years and older as of May 2020—11.31 percent of the estimated 109,035,343 population of the Philippines. The Department of Social Welfare and Development said there are 4,079,669 indigent senior citizens who are receiving P500 social pension every month this year. This is higher than the 3,203,731 in 2021 and the 930,222 in 2015.
On May 31, 2022 the House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the bill that seeks to hike elderly pension to P1,000, which was approved on final reading on May 30. It was sent to Malacañang for the president’s signature because there was no longer a need for a bicameral conference committee to settle disagreeing provisions.
President Rodrigo Duterte failed to sign the measure, but the bill lapsed into law on July 30, making the legislation a legacy of the 18th Congress.
Based on the communication sent by Malacañang to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, RA No. 11916, or the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens Act of 2022, was only one of the more than 100 bills that lapsed into law.
The new law, which will increase the monthly social pension of poor senior citizens, directs the National Commission on Senior Citizens to distribute the cash aid instead of the DSWD. The law provided options other than cash payout for the social pension, the transaction fee of which will not be charged to the recipient. Currently, DSWD field offices distribute the cash aid every three months.
Based on the “eligibility criteria” of the DSWD, senior citizens who are eligible for the government’s social pension program are the following: Frail, sick or with disability; without pension from government and private institutions; no permanent source of income; and no regular support from family or relatives for basic needs.
The law also provides that private establishments with senior citizens as employees shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income, equivalent to 15 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to the elderly.
Image credits: PNA/Nef Luczon