By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Over 317,000 indigent senior citizens have received their stipend for the first semester of 2020 under the government’s Social Pension (SocPen) Program, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has disclosed.
DSWD Spokesperson Irene Dumlao said a total of 317,093 beneficiaries received their six months’ worth of social pension that covers January to June this year, amounting to more than P951 million.
The total number of beneficiaries served by SocPen from 10 regions, however, is only nine percent of the 3.5 million indigent elderly targeted to receive the government pension.
Among the regions that have ongoing SocPen payouts are Regions II (Cagayan Valley), III (Central Luzon), IV-B (Mimaropa), V (Bicol), VI (Western Visayas), VII (Central Visayas), X (Northern Mindanao), XI (Soccksargen), and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
“There are 317,093 beneficiaries from Regions II, III, IV-B, V, VI, VII, X, XI, CAR, at CARAGA have received their SocPen,” she told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.
The stipend distributed to the beneficiaries totals P951, 279,000.
Under SocPen, which is provided for by Republic Act No. 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010,” qualified indigent senior citizens receive a monthly stipend of P500 to help augment their daily subsistence and other medical needs.
The social pension is distributed on a semestral basis at P3,000 per semester or P500 per month for six months.
Dumlao clarified, however, that not all senior citizens will receive the monthly P500 social pension from the government, as Republic Act No. 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” provides that seniors qualified to receive social pension are those who are frail, sickly or with disability; without any pension from other government agencies; and without a permanent source of income or source of financial assistance/compensation to support their basic needs.
She said those senior citizens who are not included in the list but are eligible can still appeal to the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA), their local governments, and the nearest DSWD field office (FO) that has jurisdiction over their areas for assessment.
The DSWD on May 3 assured the public that indigent senior citizens whose social pensions have been delayed for the second semester of 2019 will still receive their stipend from the government.
DSWD Undersecretary Rene Glen Paje said SocPen program beneficiaries who were affected by the delayed release of social pension will get their six months’ worth of social pension (from July 2019 to December 2019) in due time.
Dumlao also gave a similar assurance, saying those included in the “clean list” of SocPen beneficiaries can claim their pension.
She noted that there was a “revalidation” of the list of the SocPen beneficiaries last year, following the recommendation of the Commission on Audit (COA).
The DSWD earlier vowed to expedite its social pension payout for 3.5 million indigent senior citizens to help them augment their daily needs while under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
It said the official list of social pensioners will be given to the LGUs and that DSWD field offices will forge a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the distribution of the six months’ worth of social pension amounting to P3,000, specifically for the duration of ECQ “to ensure the efficient payout.”
“Other DSWD field offices are now finalizing the fund transfer process with concerned LGUs for the immediate release of the stipend of remaining beneficiaries,” it said in an earlier statement.
“Some DSWD FOs are also conducting cash payouts directly to senior citizen-beneficiaries through their Special Disbursing Officers (SDO),” the DSWD said.
Distribution schedules may vary due to the ongoing ECQ and other circumstances in the different areas.
“The Department assures the public that it will adhere to existing safety and health protocols in determining the best payout method to lessen the exposure of its beneficiaries and personnel to COVID-19,” the DSWD said.