Social pension for all Filipino senior citizens sought

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Advocates for senior citizens' rights on Thursday lamented the lack of social pension for all Filipino elders, as only indigent ones are qualified to receive such benefit under the law.

The Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizen under Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 provides a monthly stipend of ₱500 per month or ₱6,000 per year to beneficiaries.

The law defines indigent senior citizens as those who are frail, sickly, or with disability; and without pension or regular source of income or financial assistance to suport their basic needs.

Dioscoro Benalla, vice chairperson of the Confederation of Older Person Associations of the Philippines, said that while the measure has helped many Filipino senior citizens, many have yet to receive the assistance.

"Okay lang naman 'yung pag-aapruba ng [Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010], partikular na 'yung social pension kasi dati rati napakahirap talaga ng matatanda wala ultimo pambili ng gamot, wala, pangkain wala. Pero nung naaprubahan kahit paapano nakatulong ito nang malaki," he told CNN Philippines' On The Record.

[Translation: The enactment of the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010, particularly the establishment of social pension, is good because when it was approved it help a lot of senior citizens who used to have no money for medicine and even food.]

"Ngayon maraming nagrereklamo kasi maraming mga wala pa ring social pension.. May problema kasi 'yung social pension ay intended para sa indigents, ibig sabihin may criteria 'yung social pension," he added.

[Translation: Now many senior citizens are clamoring that they have yet to receive social pension. There's a problem because the social pension is intended for indigents, which means there are criteria.

For Emily Beridico, executive director of the Coalition of Services of the Elderly, these criteria are "subjective," causing confusion as to who can receive social pension.

"Kailangan mo pang magkasakit muna, kailangan mong maging mahina, kailangan mo na walang suporta mula sa pamilya para magkaroon nito. Dahil dito nagkakaroon ng ibat ibang interpretasyon ang ating local government units (LGU)," he said.

[Translation: You need to get sick and weak and to have no support from your family to receive social pension. Because of this, local government units have different interpretations of the law.]

Beredico said the government's budget for the policy is also not enough.

"'Yung budget allocation hindi pa talaga enough para i-cover lahat ng mahihirap, so ang nangyayari kanya kanyang LGU nagkakroon sila ng kanya kanyang criteria," she said.

[Translation: The budget allocation is not enough to cover all poor senior citizens, so what happens is LGUs form their own criteria.]

Several lawmakers are pushing for the amendment of the measure.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin has filed a bill that seeks to increase the social pension granted to senior citizens by 100 percent or to ₱1,000 a month.

The proposal also aims to widen the coverage to include senior citizens who do not receive any form of pension.

"We see that there is a need because of the daily subsistence of our elderly and at the same time taking consideration also the inflation effect sa ating mga bilihin (to commodities), so talagang napakaliit ng ₱500 monthly (P500 monthly is really not enough)," Garbin said.

"We want to broaden the coverage so that it will cover not only the indigents, but also those senior citizens provided that they are not receiving a pension from GSIS or SSS, a pension of not more than ₱3,500," the lawmaker added.

In the higher chamber, Senator Edgardo Angara has filed the same measure as Senate Bill 133.