By Filane Mikee Cervantes

(File photo)

MANILA – Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday called for a congressional probe on reports that local establishments are denying senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) their mandated 20-percent discount.

Romualdez said there have been several instances of violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 and RA 10754 or an Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs, which provide benefits for seniors and PWDs.

“Laws granting benefits to our senior citizens and PWDs should be strictly followed and implemented. And if there are several instances of the improper grant of these privileges and benefits, it becomes the common practice. So it cannot remain unchecked,” Romualdez said in a statement.

Romualdez cited a reported policy of a popular coffee shop chain that limits the 20-percent discount and exemption from the 12-percent value added tax (VAT) to only one food item and one drink per visit for seniors and PWDs.

He also cited a report that the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office filed two cases against two officials of a Pasig hotel for allegedly refusing to grant a 20-percent discount to a senior citizen.

They were charged with violating two senior citizen laws: Section 4 (a)(7) of RA 9994 and Article 116 of RA 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

He said the congressional inquiry will be used to clarify the law, correct misconceptions, and improve implementation.

“Maraming tanong ang ating mga senior citizen at PWDs, bibigyan natin sila ng pagkakataon kapag nagsimula na ang pagdinig sa Kongreso (Our senior citizens and PWD have a lot of questions. We should give them a chance once the hearing starts in Congress),” he said.

“Flagrant violations of the laws that grant benefits to our senior citizens and PWDs are trending topics on social media these past few months. It is high time that the House of Representatives review the implementation of these laws and find out if business establishments are complying with every provision,” he added.

Until the House probe is completed, he urged local authorities and government agencies to step up and ensure the proper and effective implementation of discounts granted to seniors and PWDs across businesses and service providers in the country.

He also called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) to make an update on the implementation of the laws.

“Napakahalaga na masiguro ng DSWD at ng NCDA na may compliance sa ating mga batas. At para naman sa ating panukalang imbestigasyon, importante ito sa performance ng ating oversight functions na siguruhin ang tamang implementasyon ng mga batas. Bahagi ito ng ating checks and balances (It is important that the DSWD and the NCDA ensure compliance with existing laws. And for our legislative inquiry, this is important for the performance of our oversight functions to ensure proper implementation of the laws. This is part of our checks and balances),” Romualdez said.

He said discounts granted to senior citizens and PWDs should not be limited in any way, for as long as they are for their use and personal consumption.

“Of course, we should also prevent the abuse of these benefits and privileges. Lahat ng ito ay titingnan natin sa ating imbestigasyon (We will look at all of these in our investigation),” he added. (PNA)