Where are the guidelines?

Published May 8, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Atty. Vic Dimagiba

My consumer advocacy group, Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) received a letter from the Department of Social Welfare and Development on April 23, 2021 but dated December 10, 2020. The letter affirmed that there are no rules and guidelines for senior citizens and PWDs (persons with disabilities) discounts, especially for online purchases.

One big online shopping platform reported a 31-percent jump in online grocery shopping in 2020 and how many of those online grocery shoppers are senior citizens and PWDs and are continuously deprived of their privileges under the law?

This is a very urgent matter especially considering that the modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ has been extended further, making life even harder on the senior citizens and the PWDs. The pandemic is truly taking a toll on the NCR plus covered areas, and now senior citizens are forced to not only confront the potential life-threatening dangers of the virus, but they also have to contend with high prices being charged when they have to do online buying from the safety and comforts of their home. It is unfortunate because protocols dictate those senior citizens who are 65 years and above continue staying   home for the past 14 months as much as possible to remain healthy and protected from the pandemic. But this also entails that they start using online services for their transactions. But how will these senior citizens and PWDs be motivated or feel protected if they are forced to have no benefits when they actually do online purchases?

On a personal experience, there are merchants who grant the discounts on presentation of the senior citizen card. The situation is improving but needs much closer monitoring by the government to regulate and ensure that senior citizens are getting their discounts for their welfare during this time of pandemic. Thus, we at LKI still hold that guidelines and strict monitoring by government is necessary as the response action to our advocacy.

It is frustrating that the response letter stated that “based on your concerns, online purchases of Senior Citizens and PWDs are not granted with the discounts as provided for in related laws. As a requirement for availing the discounts on direct food orders, through online or telephone, the senior citizen or PWD must inform the food establishment of their ID numbers and shall present the same upon delivery, and the food establishment may refuse to grant the discount. Plus, there are limited rules and guidelines regarding food-hailing deliveries in terms of Senior Citizen and PWD, and since there are no guidelines, food establishments cannot be forced to implement such discounts.”

That is why we call for strategies and policies regarding the above cases to be formulated to adapt and be responsive to the New Normal and current pandemic situation applicable to the Senior Citizens and the PWDs. We hope that the organization that is the National Commission of Senior Citizens will work and function for the welfare and benefits of these groups. Priority right now should be the health and welfare of those most vulnerable during these challenging times of pandemic, and more incentive should be given to those so that they may have more willpower and determination to stay home and stay safe, with strict health and safety protocol measures still being implemented all throughout the NCR plus areas.

 What’s taking the regulators longer to issue the implementing guidelines? Senior citizens are left at the sole mercy of the merchants who can audibly state that they do not grant discounts.

 I truly hope that the government already enacts some kind of action imposing more beneficial rules and regulations that will help senior citizens and PWDs attain some level of added relief and ease of burden during these trying times. All we ask is for the same rules to apply, from when you are transacting physically versus when you are doing online the same discounts should be applied to all, regardless of the manner of purchase.

We hope that the regulators who may me exhausted due to the 14-month pandemic can still come out with their best effort to issue the implementing guidelines.

Atty. Vic Dimagiba, AB, LLB, LLM

President, Laban Konsyumer Inc.

Email        : [email protected]