House panel moves to protect senior citizens

Published June 23, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

The House Committee on Senior Citizens has moved to consolidate at least nine bills filed in the 18th Congress seeking to establish a law protecting the elderly from all forms of violence and abuse.

Hundreds of senior citizens await their turn to receive their quarterly social pension from the local government of Quezon City at the Quezon City Hall Grounds on March 12. The Commission of Population (POPCOM) said that the rising number of senior citizens is expected to exceed eight million by the end of the year, creating an aging population in the country. POPCOM added that the increase in figures will affect the economy as the government needs more funding for their medical and financial needs. (Mark Balmores)

Senior Citizen Party-List Rep. Francisco Datol Jr., committee chairman, carried on during a virtual hearing Tuesday afternoon a motion from Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo to create a technical working group (TWG) to handle the House Bills (HBs).

Datol tasked the TWG to consolidate HB Nos. 65, 1313, 1504, 1753, 2212, 4406, and 5137, which seeks the “[protect] senior citizen from violence, defining elder abuse, and prescribing penalties therefor.”

The panel chairman said he would include in the TWG a similar bill that he had also filed, but did not name. Meanwhile, Castelo’s HB No. 3696, which is the proposed Act establishing a senior citizens’ grievance desk in every barangay, was also considered for consolidation given its closeness to the “anti-violence against senior citizens law” being pursued.

One of the authors, Tarlac 2nd district Rep. Victor Yap, said the House of Representatives had already passed such measure on third and final reading during the previous 17th Congress.

“Ito po ay tinalakay na noong 17th Congress at pumasa na. Kinulang lang ng counterpart measure sa Senate (This was already discussed and approved during the 17 Congress. What lacked was a counterpart measure from the Senate),” Yap said.

Disturbing trend

Most of the bills were filed way before the COVID-19 pandemic, but they were deemed timely given the reports of abuse, discrimination, and neglect against the elderly amid the public health emergency.

“This disturbing trend violence runs counter to the Filipino trait of respect for elders,” said another author in Parañaque City 1st district Rep. Eric Olivares. He added that his bill seeks to give protection to seniors from all forms of abuse, be it physical, psychological, or financial, in the same way that women and children are protected by existing laws.

ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Niña Taduran chimed in on the importance of the measures during the hearing.

“Our elderly nowadays need protection from abuses, discrimination, and exploitation. As they age, their health is also compromised, affecting their well-being. In recent years we have watched news how these senior citizens have been mistreated, which sometimes lead to their death…It is for these very reasons that we seriously push for the passage of the measure,” Taduran said.

Under the sought anti-violence against senior citizens law, elderly abuse shall now be considered a public crime and may be prosecuted upon the filing of complaint of other persons who have personal knowledge of the abuse.

It also increases the penalty stated in the Revised Penal Code for the commission of certain crimes against the elderly.

Representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Anti-Poverty Commission and Philippine Statistics Authority were among those who gave supporting statements to the passage of bills during the hearing.

There are 10 million senior citizens in the Philippines, Datol said.