The Senior Citizens and the Train Law: Additional Burden or Source of their benefits?

The 1987 Philippine Constitution obliges the Filipino Families the take care of its elderly members and commanded the state to create social legislation protecting and promoting the rights of our elderly.1 It also declared that it is the policy of the State to promote social justice in all phases of  National Development.2 It further directed the State to adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost and to provide free medical care to paupers prioritizing the elderly.3 Additionally, Republic Act 7432 commits the State to establish program beneficial to the senior citizens, their families and the rest of the community that they serve.4

Privileges of Senior Citizen provided by the State

To exemplify the abovementioned declaration of the State in the Constitution and various Statutes, legislation has provided numerous benefits for the Senior Citizens.

  1. Free medical and dental service, diagnostic and laboratory fees such as, but not limited to, x-rays, computerized tomography scans and blood tests, in all government facilities, subject to the guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health in coordination with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH);5
  2. Housing- The national government shall include in its national shelter program the special housing needs of senior citizens, such as establishment of housing units for the elderly;6
  3. The Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA). – There shall be established in all cities and municipalities an OSCA to be headed by a senior citizen who shall be appointed by the mayor.7 The necessary appropriation for the operation and maintenance of the OSCA shall be appropriated and approved by the local government units concerned. … such sum as shall be needed for the regular implementation of this Act shall be included in subsequent General Appropriations Act following its enactment into law.”.8
  4. Death benefit assistance of a minimum of Two thousand pesos (Php2, 000.00) shall be given to the nearest surviving relative of a deceased senior citizen which amount shall be subject to adjustments due to inflation in accordance with the guidelines to be issued by the DSWD.9
  5. The DOH, in coordination with local government units (LGUs), NGOs and POs for senior citizens, shall institute a national health program and shall provide an integrated health service for senior citizens. It shall train community-based health workers among senior citizens and health personnel to specialize in the geriatric care and health problems of senior citizens.10
  6. Access to Public Transport-The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) shall develop a program to assist senior citizens to fully gain access to public transport facilities.11
  7. Social Pension – Indigent senior citizens shall be entitled to a monthly stipend amounting to Five hundred pesos (Php500.00) to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs of senior citizens, subject to a review every two (2) years by Congress, in consultation with the DSWD.12
  8. Mandatory PhilHealth Coverage “All senior citizens shall be covered by the national health insurance program of PhilHealth. Funds necessary to ensure the enrollment of all senior citizens not currently covered by any existing category shall be sourced from the National Health Insurance Fund of PhilHealth from proceeds of Republic Act No. 10351, in accordance with the pertinent laws and regulations.13

Current Government Spending on Senior Citizen

The government is proposing to raise by 20 percent to P23 billion the budget for the provision of social pension to indigent senior citizens in 2019, according to the Department of Budget and Management. The DBM said the increase in budget would benefit a total of 3,796,791 indigent senior citizens in 2019.14

In 2017, the SSS fulfilled President Duterte’s promise to give higher benefits to our pensioners. SSS disbursed roughly P33.5 billion to cover the additional benefit to pensioners which started in January 2017.15

In 2017, the National Government appropriated 13.045 Billion Pesos (Php 13,045,051,000.00) from the General Appropriations Act to fund the Mandatory Membership of more or less 10 million Senior Citizens in the Philippines.16 The Benefit claimed in 2017 by the Senior Citizen from Philhealth was in the amount of 21.321 Billion Pesos.16

How will these Program be Funded?

The Train Law

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law In 2019 will fund the government’s effort to alleviate the temporary discomfort our poor Senior Citizens by distributing Php 2,400.00 to each of the 3 million senior citizen-beneficiaries of the Social Pension Program, a total of 7.2 Billion in 2019. Another distribution of 10.8 Billion is scheduled to be implemented in 2020. 17

Purchases of senior citizens and persons with disabilities, will continue to be exempt from VAT. Housing that cost below P2 million will be exempt from VAT beginning 2021, while medicines for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension will be exempt beginning 2019. 18

Conclusion

It is somewhat challenging that we became citizen of this country that do not have oil to export and have no the capacity to fund its Social Programs and Services without asking money to its citizens through Taxation.  But with the help of each and every citizen and the political will of our government, we can contribute and accomplish the mandate of our constitution that:

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

Footnote:

  1. Section 4, Article 15, 1987 Philippine Constitution
  2. Section 10, Article 2, 1987 Philippine Constitution
  3. Section 11, Article 13, 1987 Philippine Constitution
  4. 3, Paragraph 2, Section 1, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432
  5. Paragraph e, Section 4, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9257
  6. Paragraph e, Section 5, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9257
  7. Section 6, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9257
  8. Section 13, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9257
  9. Paragraph l, Section 4, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9994
  10. Paragraph c, Section 5, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9994
  11. Paragraph f, Section 5, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9994
  12. No 1., Paragraph h, Section 5, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9994
  13. No 2., Paragraph h, Section 5, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7432, as ammended by REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10645
  14. Mary Padin, P23 Billion Budget For Indigent Senior Citizens’ Pension Looms, https://www.philstar.com/business/2018/08/24/1845213/p23-billion-budget-indigent-senior-citizens-pension-looms
  15. Ben Vera, Due To Pension Hike, Sss Profit Down 37% To P20.3b in 2017 – https://business.inquirer.net/247937/due-pension-hike-sss-profit-37-p20-3-billion-2017
  16. https://www.philhealth.gov.ph/about_us/annual_report/ar2017.pdf
  17. Adrian Ayalin, Dswd Starts Giving Out P2,400 To Poor Senior Citizens Affected By Train Law, https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/06/15/18/dswd-starts-giving-out-p2400-to-poor-senior-citizens-affected-by-train-law
  18. Package One – Simplified Value-added Tax (vat) System • #taxreformnow http://www.dof.gov.ph/taxreform/index.php/e-vat/

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