IN the indigenous culture of our archipelago’s pre-Western Malays who became the Filipinos and in their later culture as the Christian Malays, the virtue of respect and care for elders has always been a mark of every person’s — and family’s — good character. This is still generally true among Filipinos today.
Sadly, various influences have caused the general character of Filipinos to deteriorate, causing us to have among the world’s most corrupt societies, with immoral government officials, members of parliament, politicians and even private sector businessmen who use politics to increase their wealth by violating laws and even the Constitution.
This deterioration has also happened in families. And the virtue of respect for elders and love and care for the elderly has gone down.
That is why we like the annual observance of “Elderly Filipino Week” — if only because schools and some government offices are forced by law to remember the virtue of respect for the elderly during the week of October 1 to 7 every year.
Proclamation No. 470 issued on September 26, 1994 created this annual event to increase public awareness of the different issues concerning the population’s older people.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as chair of the National Steering Committee, with partner agencies and senior citizens’ associations, leads the celebration, which this year is on the theme “Igalang ang Nakatatanda at ang Kanilang mga Karapatan.” (Respect the Elderly and their Rights.)
This year’s activities include a Walk for Life; Forum for Retirees, Talakayan on Social Insurance, “Dalaw Kalinga;” Visit to Visitorless, Indigent, Sick, Older Prisoners (VISO) and disaster preparedness meetings for seniors.
The elderly sector comprises 6.8 percent of the Philippine population. The State has a responsibility to protect its members.
Republic Act 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, provides more benefits and privileges to older persons. They are entitled to 20 percent discount on the purchase of certain goods and services, and special 5 percent discount on prime commodities and basic necessities, and 5 percent utility discount on electric and water consumption.
Likewise, eligible indigent senior citizens are also entitled to a social pension amounting to P500 monthly, which the DSWD implements.
This year Congress approved DSWD’s proposal to lower the age of qualification to 65. The funding has been included in the General Appropriations Act of 2015, which allocates P5.962 billion to benefit some 939, 609 indigent senior citizens aged 65 and above everywhere in our archipelago, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The 2015 budget for the program is P2.853 billion higher than last year’s allocation of P3.108 billion. The pension is distributed every quarter in cash payments made by DSWD city and town field offices.
DSWD is also carrying out many other programs for the elderly, which we hope it is doing without any instances of graft–like the conditional cash transfer program.