Reaching the age of 60 is a milestone that some of us are looking forward to but it’s also a reality dreaded by many. For people who worked for most of their lives, reaching the age of retirement means a life without stress or pressure and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Unfortunately, this situation does not apply to every individual, particularly for those who were not able to secure well-paying or to a lesser extent, decent jobs. The fact is that many Filipinos grow old without any savings to speak of, no pensions to enjoy and no family to take care of them during their most vulnerable period in life.
Over the past two decades as a member of Congress, we pushed for legislation to promote the welfare of our seniors, provide them with the benefits, care and protection that they deserve as one of the most vulnerable sectors of society. This was one advocacy that I shared with my father, the late Senate President Edgardo Angara, who authored the original Senior Citizen’s Act (Republic Act 7432). The law, which came to be known as the Angara Law, was widely celebrated for institutionalizing the benefits granted to senior citizens, including the 20 percent discount on goods and services. Over a decade later, RA 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizen’s Act was enacted—providing additional benefits and privileges to the elderly. One of the key features of the law, of which I was one of the authors, is the exemption from the value added tax on the sale of certain goods and services enjoyed or availed by senior citizens.
RA 9994 also institutionalized the grant of social pension for indigent senior citizens, amounting to P500 a month or P6,000 annually, and coverage in the national health insurance program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. In July of 2022, RA 11916, another law that we authored, doubled the amount of social pension provided to indigent seniors to P12,000 a year. Under the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024, a total of P49.81 billion was allocated for the grant of social pension for indigent seniors. Administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Social Pension for Indigent Seniors Program will benefit over four million elderly Filipinos who are not part of the pension system. The program is intended to assist elderly Filipinos who have no regular income or support from family and who are not receiving any pension.
During the Senate’s plenary debates on the proposed 2024 budget of the DSWD, we were informed that there are around 466,000 indigent seniors who have yet to receive their social pension. What was alarming from the report of the DSWD was that the figure of waitlisted seniors was up from 228,000 previously. It was also revealed that the budgetary requirement for the settlement of the backlog in social pension grants could go as high as P5 billion. For indigent seniors, the monthly social pension would help a lot as an augmentation to their daily expenses and for their medical needs. We are inquiring into the causes of these delays and appealing to the DSWD to resolve this at the soonest possible time.
We also continue to hear about cases involving some establishments that reportedly fail to provide seniors with their privileges as mandated under the law. A recent report involved a senior citizen who filed a complaint against a hotel for allegedly refusing to grant her the 20 percent discount and exemption from the VAT for her stay at the establishment. According to the report, the hotel claimed the senior guest was provided with a promotional rate already so she could no longer avail of any additional discounts. The guest asked the hotel for proof that the promotion was approved by the Department of Trade and Industry as required by the Consumer Act of the Philippines but the establishment failed to provide this. The guest has since decided to file a complaint against the establishment.
These benefits and privileges are being provided to senior citizens and also to persons with disabilities to provide them with some financial relief in the availment of goods and services for their consumption. Their circumstances, more often than not, are significantly different from the rest of society and so we in Congress saw it fit to provide them with such benefits. We appeal to our partners in the private sector to honor all valid transactions of our seniors and for the concerned agencies in government to enforce the applicable laws.
Senator Sonny Angara has been in public service for 19 years—9 years as Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and 10 as Senator. He has authored, co-authored, and sponsored more than 330 laws. He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.
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