Senior citizens are respected in Asian cultures, and the Philippines is no exception to these norms. They are to be respected and treated well considering their age, their health and the fact they are retired; consequently, they no longer receive any income (unless they are self-employed) and rely heavily on their pensions.
Given their situation, senior citizens are at a disadvantage when it comes to availing basic services or trying to meet their needs, especially if there are no relatives to care for them. There are establishments that do not recognize them as “special” and are treated just like ordinary customers and clients.
To address the plight of the senior citizens, the Philippine government passed three laws. Republic Act 7432, the Senior Citizens Act of 1993. This was amended by Republic Act 9257 which is known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003. This was further amended with the passing of Republic Act 9994 which is the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. The latter provides additional privileges to senior citizens not covered in the previous laws.
To be a “senior citizen” under Philippine law, one must be 60 years old and above who are natural-born citizens of the Philippines. This can also cover those with dual citizenships provided they must present proof of their Philippine citizenship.
They are entitled to a 20% discount on medical-related privileges ranging from buying medication to medical services. In certain services, they may get them for free such as diagnostic and laboratory tests as well as free from professional fees of doctors in government-run medical facilities.
They also get a 20% discount in any form of transportation on land, air and sea; and in commercial and business establishments, including funeral services. They enjoy a 5% discount on utility services on the condition that the meters are registered under their name and does not exceed 100 Kwh (electricity) and 30 m3 (water).
They are exempted from income tax if they are considered minimum wage earners and exempted from training fees from programs under the DTI, DOLE, DA, TESDA and DOST-TRC.
They are also entitled to government assistance such as pensions. Senior citizens classified as indigent will receive a monthly stipend of 500 pesos. They are covered by PhilHealth which is mandatory and stated in Republic Act 10645; death benefit assistance with a minimum of 2,000 pesos to be given to the next of kin who attended to the deceased senior citizen and various social safety assistance in times of calamities.
Other privileges would be priority in express lanes in all establishments. Some have put up special lanes for senior citizens to lessen their waiting time to be served. They are also entitled to educational privileges recognizing their right to education, proving age should not be an issue; they will still enjoy the same benefits accorded by GSIS, SSS and PAG-IBIG.
For a senior citizen to avail of these privileges and benefits, they must present their Senior Citizens Identification Card in any establishment.
Those who refuse to honor senior citizens benefits shall be held criminally liable and meted with the appropriate sanctions as specified in Section 10 of RA 9994, the most severe would be the revocation of permits to operate. If it is a corporation, its head or those involved in management shall be held accountable under the same law.
If it is any indication, the sanctions stated in the law serve as warning to those who are very insensitive and impersonal towards senior citizens; it underscores they cannot hide behind their policies to justify their “just business” attitude. Furthermore, it urges establishments to be more sensitive and humane to senior citizens who are undoubtedly not in the best of health and no longer draw income, hence the special privileges accorded by law.
It can be further gleaned that the Senior Citizens Act aims to give more to those who have less as part of the Philippine government’s obligation to social justice.
Cover Photo Credit: Alderite.Com