By Filane Mikee Cervantes

DOUBLE CHECK. The Quezon City government validates its list of indigent senior citizens entitled to assistance at SB Park in Batasan Hills on Jan. 17, 2023. The validation will be held until Jan. 27 in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, QC Social Services Development Department and Office for the Senior Citizens’ Affairs. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – A party-list lawmaker on Thursday proposed a universal social pension to cover all senior citizens in the country.

In a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing over PTV-4, United Senior Citizens Party-list Rep. Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay said the current social pension program only covers indigent senior citizens.

Magsaysay suggested expanding the monthly social pension, which was increased from PHP500 to PHP1,000, to all senior citizens.

“Kasi iyong PHP500 ano naman ang mabibili ‘di ba? So, okay lang naman na nabigyan ng increase na PHP1,000. Pero sana po madagdagan kasi marami pa pong waiting list na indigents din na kailangan din ang pension. But better still, universal na sana, lahat na ng seniors makakatanggap (What can we buy with PHP500, right? So, it was just apt to increase the pension to PHP1,000. But hopefully we could expand the coverage because a lot of indigents who need the pension are still in the waiting list. But better still, we should just make it universal so all the seniors can receive pension),” Magsaysay said.

National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) Chairperson Frank Quijano earlier said there are around 4.08 million indigent senior citizens out of about 12 million senior citizens nationwide.

Magsaysay said she received several complaints regarding indigent senior citizens being excluded from the social pension program.

“Maski na hirap na hirap, pinakamahirap na senior citizen, kung hindi mo kasama iyong gumagawa ng listahan, and usually mga barangay captains ang gumagawa ng listahan, hindi na sila nai-include na mag-pension. So iyon ang madalas na reklamo (Even the poorest senior citizens are not included in the social pension program because they’re not acquainted with the ones making the list, which are usually the barangay captains. So that’s the usual complaint),” she said.

She said making the social pension system universal would not leave out or discriminate against any senior citizen.

“So naisipan ko na ilaban iyong Universal Social Pension para ito, wala nang lista-lista, wala nang pila-pila. Lahat na lang ng senior citizens age 60 and above, mayaman man, mahirap man, may pension man o wala, makakatanggap ng pension na buwanan (So I am pushing for this Universal Social Pension so that there is no need to be waitlisted or line up. All senior citizens aged 60 and above, rich or poor, with or without pension, would receive monthly pension),” she said.

She said the proposal would require a budgetary allocation of PHP60 billion.

“So iyon na lang ang pinaglalaban ko ngayon. And I hope, nag-usap naman kami ni Speaker Martin Romualdez, at mayroon naman nang pondo na nakita ang appropriations [committee], so I hope naman na ma-push through na ito kasi ito talaga ang clamor ng lahat ng senior citizens (That’s what I’m currently pushing for. And I hope–I already talked to Speaker Martin Romualdez, and the appropriations committee already found funding sources–so I hope that this would push through because this is the clamor of all senior citizens),” she said.

Disability support fund

Meanwhile, OFW Party-list Rep. Marissa Magsino has filed House Bill No. 9828, which seeks to establish the Disability Support Fund to be administered by the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA).

It aims to provide a disability support allowance of PHP2,000 per month per eligible beneficiary, based on the criteria to be formulated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The allowance will be indexed to inflation to preserve its positive impact on the standards of living and participation of people with disabilities (PWDs).

In combination with social protection programs and discounts PWDs are already entitled to under existing laws, Magsino said the support allowance aims to address the higher costs of transportation, housing, nutrition, hygiene, and temporary human assistance requirements, and other disability-related costs, as well as provide a basic income security for qualified PWDs.

The proposed measure covers all persons with disabilities certified under the Disability Assessment and Determination System, prioritizing children and adults with significant disabilities facing high barriers and costs.

“The ultimate goal is to extend coverage to all registered persons with disabilities, regardless of income levels, addressing disability-related extra costs that impact their standard of living,” Magsino said. (PNA)