By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY LINA
“Age does not matter if the matter does not age.”
While the humorous quote is originally attributed to the 18th century German novelist Johann Paul Friedrich Richter who was popularly known as Jean Paul, it was the late Philippine statesman Carlos P. Romulo who was fond of saying it.
And when people heard Romulo, they knew he was right – the man deemed as one of the most distinguished Filipinos who ever lived was intellectually sharp as ever, even when he was already an octogenarian and still serving as our country’s top diplomat in the 1980s.
The accomplishments of Romulo, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a soldier who served with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the first Asian to serve as president of the United Nations General Assembly, before becoming the Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs in three administrations, is a testament to the ability of certain people to render a lifetime of service without being slowed down by age.
Indeed, many senior citizens are still in the prime of life and our country’s prime movers. The captains of industry are seniors. Many of the key executives of leading businesses, vital organizations, innovative ventures, even MSMEs, are also seniors.
Thus, it isn’t surprising that a public outcry has emerged from the reported proposal of the Department of Health to bar seniors from going out of their homes even after community quarantine measures are finally eased up in Metro Manila and other areas of the country hit by the coronavirus pandemic. To immobilize these key players and confine them to their homes at a time the economy needs to be reopened is really absurd.
But many find it surprising that such recommendation, purportedly to protect seniors believed to be most vulnerable to COVID-19, was being considered when the government is heavily manned by seniors from the president down to the various department officials, with few exceptions. Also, many elected officials in Congress and in local government units are senior citizens, not to mention those in the judiciary.
“Many senior citizens are far healthier and have stronger immune systems than their younger counterparts. To indiscriminately prohibit them from going out of their homes is not only arbitrary, it is downright insensitive,” according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Others see the proposed move as discriminatory. “This cruel discriminatory attitude is called “ageism” — the systematic stereotyping of people based solely on age. All over the world, a growing number of people enter their advanced years — sometimes way past their 80s — in reasonably good health, free from the ravages of chronic illness,” according to prominent sociologist Randy David.
Explaining the category of senior citizens do not have the most number of coronavirus cases, the group called “Seniors sa Panahon ng COVID” recently said: “‘The Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 tracker showed that the age bracket 30 to 34 has the most number of cases, at 918, followed by the 25 to 29 bracket at 866. While the 60 to 64 age bracket only has 702 coronavirus-infected patients, other categories consisting of senior citizens also registered several cases like the 65 to 69 bracket (581), 70 to 74 (430), 75 to 79 (222), and 80 and above (228). Hence, the data shows that there are 2,163 senior citizens who are COVID-19 patients, or 27.18 percent of all the 7,958 cases accounted for the DOH COVID-19 tracker.”
Amid the furor over the DOH recommendation, it’s a good thing that Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have expressed willingness to allow seniors to leave their homes.
“If it is in line with work, they are allowed to go out… Seniors who do not have younger companions, they’re just living alone, those who are retired, they will be allowed to go out so they can buy food and other necessities,” Secretary Año said in a DZMM radio interview.
Secretary Lopez said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases “is not insisting” that senior citizens should be confined to their homes. “This is just an overall policy presented to us due to the vulnerability of the age segment… Of course, the seniors who are actively working or running business will be allowed,” he explained in a statement.
The DOH recommendation to ban people from going out also included those below 21 years old. I find this contrary to the spirit of RA 6809 which lowered the age of majority from 21 to 18 years. The law I authored in the 8th Congress provides: “Emancipation takes place by the attainment of majority. Unless otherwise provided, majority commences at the age of eighteen years… Emancipation shall terminate parental authority over the person and property of the child who shall then be qualified and responsible for all acts of civil life…”
It is beyond dispute that healthy senior citizens and young people who are no longer minors are essential to the country’s recovery and restricting them is unthinkable.
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