The International Day of Older Persons is observed on October 1 each year. The holiday was observed for the first time on Oct. 1, 1991; hence, this day has been observed for the past three decades. Raising awareness on issues affecting older persons, such as senescence – or deterioration of health conditions due to aging – and elderly abuse are focal points of the annual observance.
In the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Article XV, Section 4, it is declared that every family must take care of its elderly members while the government is expected to design and implement appropriate programs of social security for them.
As of October, 2019, it was estimated that there were 9.5 million citizens who were 60 years of age or older, making up 8.6 percent of the total Philippine population. Compared to the year 2000 during which there were 4.6 million senior citizens, their number had more than doubled in two decades.
Are older persons or senior citizens in the Philippines being treated well and in accordance with what the Constitution declares as State policy? Among the benefits they enjoy under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 9994), the most well-known is the 20 percent discount and selective exemption from payment of the value-added tax (VAT) to which they are entitled on, among others: a) the purchase of medicines and influenza and pneumococcal vaccines and such other essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment, as determined by the Department of Health; b) “the professional fees of attending physician/s in all private hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient clinics and home health care services”; c) “in actual fare for land transportation travel in public utility buses (PUBs), public utility jeepneys (PUJs), taxis, Asian utility vehicles (AUVs), shuttle services and public railways, including Light Rail Transit (LRT), Mass Rail Transit (MRT), and Philippine National Railways (PNR); d) in actual transportation fare for domestic air transport services and sea shipping vessels and the like, based on the actual fare and advanced booking; e) on the utilization of services in hotels and similar lodging establishments, restaurants and recreation centers; f) on admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses and concert halls, circuses, leisure and amusement; and g) on funeral and burial services for the death of senior citizens.
Other benefits pertain to “exemption from the payment of individual income taxes of senior citizens who are considered to be minimum wage earners in accordance with Republic Act No. 9504”; and “the grant of a minimum of five percent discount relative to the monthly utilization of water and electricity supplied by the public utilities” subject to consumption limits.
Worthy of more focused attention are the elderly who belong to the most needy and marginalized sectors of society. Indeed, how well a country treats its elderly is a vital indicator of how it treats its citizenry in general.
Amid a raging pandemic, it is important that we accord utmost attention and dedication to the needs of elderly persons.