Binay, Villar debate on gov’t policy prohibiting senior citizens from going out

Senators Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar on Tuesday, May 25, debated on whether the government’s policy restricting vaccinated senior citizens from going out should be eased or not.

Senator Nancy Binay (Senate of the Philippines/MANILA BULLETIN File photo)

At the hearing of the Senate’s Committee on Economic Affairs on the status of plans and programs of the government for industries hard-hit by the pandemic, Villar questioned the need to continue keeping elderly people who are already inoculated locked in their homes, insisting that this defeats the purpose of prioritizing them in the COVID-19 vaccination program.

Villar noted senior citizens, especially those beyond 65 years old, are still not allowed to enter dining establishments when they should at least be allowed to eat out.

“Why did you vaccinate them if you would not allow them to get out? It’s ironic that you give priority to them, then you would not allow them to go out,” Villar pointed out.

“Baka naman maloko na ‘yon sa bahay (They might go crazy if they are not allowed to go out),” she added.

Binay, however, argued that allowing elderly to go outside might trigger a super spreader event explaining that getting the vaccine does not guarantee they would no longer catch the coronavirus and could be carriers of the disease.

“'Yong mga senior citizens natin, sila 'yong pwedeng mag-cause ng collapse ng health system natin kasi sila yung prone (Our senior citizens could cause the collapse of our health system because they are the ones prone) to get COVID,” Binay opined.

But Villar insisted that getting vaccinated should have afforded them protection from severe illness and that they don’t have to go to the hospital.

“If at all, it should just be slight flu, but never death and never serious COVID illnesses. Hindi ko nga maintindihan na yung (I don’t understand that those) 65, anybody beyond 65, hindi pwedeng lumabas kahit na (cannot go out even though they are) vaccinated. Maliit na ang risk mo doon, eh -- flu lang (You already have lesser risk, just flu), not death or serious COVID illness ,” she said.

Binay maintained vaccinated senior citizens can still infect other people: “Senior citizens can be a spreader.”

Still, Villar countered this saying everyone, regardless of age, are also considered as “spreaders.”

“Lahat tayo ay spreader. Bakit naman mo pinagbawalan ang (All of us are spreaders. Why single out) senior citizens?” she pointed out.

Sen. Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate economics panel, agreed with Villar saying the policy of prohibiting senior citizens from going out even if they have been vaccinated “defies logic.”

“Mahirap ipaliwanag sa ating mga senyoritas at senyoritos (It’s hard to explain that to our seniors),” Marcos said.

During the hearing, Eric Teng, president of the Restaurant Owners of the Philippines, cited that restaurants in the United States and in Israel allow the senior citizens to eat out.

Villar said the Philippines can do the same even with the slow roll out of the vaccination program.

Binay, on the other hand, stressed that the US and Israel are already close to achieving herd immunity.

Teng then proposed to have a special area for vaccinated seniors to be able to accommodate them.

Since COVID-19 vaccines started coming into the country in March, the Philippine government has started inoculating the medical frontliners, senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. earlier said the government would start inoculating persons belonging to the A4 (essential workers) and A5 (indigents) priority groups once the COVID-19 vaccine supply in the country becomes stable.