8 October 2014
Sen. Pia wants pension provision of Expanded Senior Citizens Act reviewed
Why are indigent senior citizens under the age of 77 being deprived of the P500 monthly pension which they are supposed to receive under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 or Republic Act 9994?
This is the question that Senator Pia S. Cayetano wants answered in a resolution (Philippine Senate Resolution 945) she recently filed asking the Senate to probe government’s failure to fully implement the social pension provision of the landmark law.
Under Section 5, paragraph h, line 1 of RA 9994, all indigent senior citizens shall be entitled to a monthly stipend of P500 to augment their daily subsistence and other medical needs, the senator said.
An ‘indigent’ senior citizen is defined under Section 3 of the law as an elderly aged 60 and above who is frail, sickly or with disability, and without pension or permanent source of income, compensation or financial assistance from his/her relatives to support his/her basic needs.
“The law does not distinguish nor provide a classification by age of indigent senior citizens. This is a clear deviation from RA 9994. The DSWD rules should not distinguish where the law does not,” stressed the senator, who was also one of the law’s principal sponsors.
“Five hundred pesos is a fairly small amount and yet many of our indigent seniors do not receive it because of a series of administrative orders issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which prioritized only those who are 77 years old and above,” she added.
“We know that under the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015, P78 billion is allotted for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of DSWD, a P15.4-billion increase from this year’s P62.6-billion budget for CCT.”
“Why could we not carve out an amount from the CCT budget to allow all indigent seniors to benefit from the stipend?” she asked.
Among the issuances being questioned by Cayetano include DSWD Administrative Order (AO) No.15, series of 2010, which listed indigent senior aged 80 years and above as ‘first priority’; those aged 70 to 79 as ‘second priority’; and those aged 60-69 as ‘third priority’ recipients of the stipend.
In 2011, DSWD issued AO No.3 which specified that only indigent seniors aged 77 and above would be entitled to the pension.
In 2012, DSWD AO No.4 further tightened previous guidelines by stating that indigent seniors aged 76 and below were only to be regarded as ‘potential social pensioners’ for the succeeding implementation of RA 9994. The AO also reiterated that the inclusion of new beneficiaries under the program would be ‘subject to the availability of funds.’
She said 2012 DSWD records showed that there were approximately 1.3 million indigent senior citizens all over the country. Of this number, only 254,175 indigent senior citizens (19.5 %) received the monthly stipend of P500 in 2013.
“This could mean that potentially, more than a million indigent elderly (1,045,825) are being deprived of the P500 monthly pension because of the DSWD administrative orders.”
She added that the review of RA 9994 is long overdue since the law requires Congress to revisit the social pension provision every two years. #
FILE PHOTO (March, 2010): Sen. Pia S. Cayetano shares a super-sized pizza with senior citizens in Kabankalan City and then Negros Occidental Governor Isidro Zayco to mark the enactment of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act (RA 9994). The landmark law exempted the elderly from paying the 12% VAT in their purchases of basic goods and selected services, allowing them to fully enjoy the mandated 20% senior citizens discount.