Grandparents are like angels on earth.
I grew up with very fond memories of my own grandparents—how they would always indulge my every toy or food wish, the way they showed me how fun it was to live alongside farm animals, the sea and nature, or how they’d beam when I start singing or dancing for other relatives (after a slight hesitation) when they kindly requested me to. They’re like our parents, but minus the mood swings.
After living in Canada for a time, I realized how lucky Filipino families are, having grandparents live close to us–if not with us, and in our own homes. Senior citizens, or those who are 60 years old and above, tend to either live alone or opt for assisted living homes in most other countries, including Canada.
My mother-in-law, who works in an assisted living facility for seniors in California, said most seniors at their facility barely have visitors come over. Some have been abandoned by their own families.
Our country always had to manage its limited resources to address various pressing needs, including providing support for our own elderly. While we are nowhere near capable of providing world class homes for our own senior citizens, it’s worth knowing that there are privileges that our grandparents can now avail of in the country, in recognition of their experience, contribution to nation-building or simply in deference to Filipino tradition of caring for our elderly.
The Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (R.A. No. 9994), amended in November 2014, actually provides the following privileges to our awesome seniors:
- Twenty per cent ( 20%) discount on goods and services and exemption from value-added tax (VAT). This covers medicines, medical supplies and equipment, doctor’s fees, medical and dental services, public transport by land, air or sea, hotels, restaurants, theaters, cinemas, concerts, amusement parks and on funeral and burial services of the senior citizen.
- Five per cent (5%) discount on public utilities. This covers monthly water and electricity bills, as long as the utilities are registered under the name of the resident senior citizen.
- Free services. Free medical and dental services, diagnostic and laboratory fees such as, but not limited to, x-rays, computerized tomography scans and blood tests, in all government facilities. The DOH shall also administer free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizen patients. PhilHealth is now mandated to cover all senior citizens by enrolling all seniors not currently covered by any existing Philhealth category, funds of which, interestingly, will be coming from proceeds of the Sin Tax Law.
- Educational assistance. Public and private schools are mandated to extend educational assistance to senior citizens who wish to pursue post secondary, tertiary, post tertiary, vocational and technical education, as well as short-term courses in both public and private schools through provision of scholarships, grants, financial aids, subsides and other incentives to qualified senior citizens.
In addition to these benefits, you may also check other benefits that your municipality or city offers on top of the privileges that are nationally mandated. Make sure to register your lolo/lola for a Senior Citizen ID Card by filling up a form in the local municipal or city hall where your lolo/lola resides.
Any person, establishment or entity that refuses to honor these senior citizens’ privileges can be held criminally liable and may be punished with imprisonment and payment of hefty fines. Administrative sanctions also await establishments who refuse to honor these privileges, including but not limited to the revocation of business permits, franchise etc.
Our country may not be the best in terms of government-subsidized facilities for senior citizens, but I personally think we are the best in providing personal senior care.
I hope our lawmakers and local government units would take more time –and effort — to review and update the provisions of the Senior Citizens Act to empower them more and make them more involved in the community. After all, how often do we get to have angels on earth?
Atty. Hazel L. Helmuth-Vega is a litigation and corporate lawyer. She is a partner at Rosal Diaz Bacalla and Fortuna Law Offices based in Cebu City, with clients all over the Philippines. You may drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.