MANILA The recent passage of a bill institutionalizing a national commission for senior citizens in both the House of Representatives and the Senate has buoyed the hopes of millions of senior citizens, who have been clamoring for a better implementation of several laws and policies providing for the needs of the elderly.
For years, senior citizens have gone through a maze of different government agencies and institutions just to get the benefits due them.
But this situation will soon become a thing of the past once House Bill 8837 is finally enacted into law.
HB 8837, which was adopted by the Senate, was approved on third and final reading by both Chambers of Congress last January 29.
The proposed measure aims to create a cohesive government agency that will implement and enforce the laws and monitor compliance, to properly address the needs of senior citizens, which will be named the National Senior Citizens Commission (NSCC).
Senior Citizen party-list Rep. Fancisco Datol Jr., the principal author of HB 8837, said the NSCC will be responsible for the implementation of all policies, plans and programs for the welfare of senior citizens.
With the creation of the NCSC, the implementation of several laws and policies on senior citizens will now be synchronized in one body, Datol said in a press briefing.
We will have a high-level government agency looking after seniors and run by seniors, he added.
Under the proposed measure, the NSCC would be an agency attached to the Office of the President.
The Commission will be composed of a Chairman and six Commissioners who will serve for seven years. The chairperson and commissioners, who must be at least 60 years old, shall be appointed by the President.
The six Commissioners will be apportioned to oversee clusters of regions in the country based on the number of senior citizens in the area. The Commissioners to be deployed in a geographic region must come from the said region.
Datol said this provision is meant to ensure that the Commission is truly in touch with the plight of its constituents and close enough to see to it that the services to seniors are indeed being delivered at the local government and community levels.
Priorities would be the indigent senior citizens in depressed areas, he said.
Meanwhile, Regional Directors will directly handle the activities of the different Office of Senior Citizen Affairs (OSCA) in their respective assigned regions.
The OSCAs shall be appointed by the Commission upon recommendation of the respective regional directors using the parameters or qualifications stated in RA 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.
The terms of office of OSCA heads and regional directors shall be at the pleasure of the Commission.
NSCC would depoliticize OSCA
Datol said the creation of the NSCC as the national implementing and coordinating body linking all the OSCAs of LGUs nationwide would finally depoliticize the issuance of senior citizens' identification cards.
The OSCA will now be removed from the direct control and supervision of the mayors. Hindi na mapupulitika ang mga senior citizen (Senior citizens won't be politicized anymore), he said.
Citing findings during the committee hearings, Datol noted that at present, some OSCAs are being used by the respective mayors as a means for their early campaigning by placing their names and pictures on OSCA IDs and booklets
On the same vein, senior citizens who oppose or contradict the mayors' policies and mandates are left behind in terms of benefits, pensions and good opportunities, he said.
He said what is even worse is the fact that even rich senior citizens are granted pensions supposedly reserved for indigent senior citizens just because they are allies of incumbent officials.
Datol was referring to the PHP500 monthly pension being received by indigent senior citizens under the social pension program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Citizens aged 60 and above who have no pension from private or government institutions, regular income, or support from their families may enroll in the program.
Qualified senior citizens may apply at the OSCA, the City or Municipal Social Welfare Development Office or a DSWD Regional Office. Applicants or their representatives must bring an OSCA ID and birth certificate, or any document stating his or her date of birth.
Pag tao ka ng mayor, kahit ikaw ay mayaman, basta ikaw ay leader, bibigyan ka ng PHP500 na pension. Yung mahirap lalong nagiging kawawa. Kaya inaalis na sa mga mayor ang pag-aappoint sa OSCA (if you are allied with the mayor, even if you are rich, as long as you are a leader, you will receive PHP500 in pensions. That's why the authority to appoint OSCA personnel is removed from the mayor), Datol said.
Datol cited the case of a Metro Manila city, where only 17,000 out of the around 350,000 senior citizens are receiving the universal pension of PHP500.
Upon investigation, they found out that most of those receiving pensions live in subdivisions, and even have children working abroad.
Datol, however, clarified that removing OSCAs under the direct control of the mayors would not mean that mayors would be completely stripped of supervision.
They are free from giving additional benefits and reasonable restrictive measures so long they are not in contravention of the objectives and policies set by the Commission, he said.
However, all benefits for senior citizens provided by the DSWD, the LGUs and other agencies will be under the Commission. On this score, the NSCC will now become relatively independent and free from the political clout or claws of politicians, Datol said.
Ready for PRRD's signature
Meanwhile, Datol said senior citizens like him are eagerly awaiting the full implementation of HB 8837.
He pointed out that since the measure was adopted by the Senate, there is no need for the bill to go through a bicameral committee conference so it would be sent immediately to MalacaAang after printing for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.
We are sure that President Duterte will immediately sign the measure once it reaches his desk, because we all know that he is a living legend among senior citizens and fully supports this bill, Datol said.
I also hope that President Duterte will immediately constitute the NSCC by appointing its chairman and commissioners by this coming summer. We could have a fully-operational NCSC by around Grandparents Day on September 18 with the approval of the implementing rules and regulations by that time, he said. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency