Online purchases and orders via phone calls/SMS of senior citizens (SC) and persons with disabilities (PWDs) must be granted the mandatory discounts as provided under the law, according to two joint memorandum circulars (JMC) prepared by government agencies led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The latest proposed JMC was dated September 20, 2021 providing guidelines on the mandatory statutory benefits and privileges of senior citizens and PWDs was drafted by the DTI. Meanwhile, a technical working group led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has also prepared another draft JMC, which provides more detailed guidelines.

Under the TWG JMC, it specifically stated the grant of mandatory benefits to seniors and PWDs on their purchases through e-commerce, phone calls, and short message services (SMS) or text messages.

Consumer advocate Victorio Mario Dimagiba, president of Laban Konsyumer Inc., said he favored the TWG draft JMC because it underwent public consultation. It also spells out the details, thus limiting problems in implementation.

However, the latest draft DTI JMC has no teeth. “The DTI draft is motherhood. It also provides a trigger for merchants discretion,“ said Dimagiba.

Dimagiba said the DTI JMC version has general provisions that most will most likely trigger merchants discretion unlike the DSWD TWG draft where the details of the guidelines are spelled out. For instance, he pointed out the DTI version provides for “voluntary compliance by merchants”.

The DSWD TWG draft specified the privileges (discount rates) and the goods and services that seniors and PWDs are entitled under the law that must also be granted on their purchases made through e-commerce platforms or phone calls/SMS.

For instance, the TWG draft specifies that seniors and PWDs are entitled under the law 20 percent (VAT-exempt) discount on purchases of medicines and medical supplies, professional fees of attending physicians in all hospitals, transportation fares (land, sea, air), admission fees in theaters, cinemas, concerts, leisure and amusement facilities; foods, drinks, desserts and other consumable goods; and funeral/burial services.

Seniors and PWDs are also entitle to 5 percent special discount rate on basic necessities and prime commodities. These items were also identified in the TWG draft JMC.

To avail of these discounts, seniors and PWDs must provide all the necessary IDs and documents. Those who cannot provide the documents ordered items delivered, the senior or PWD is required to pay the full amount of the goods/orders or service.

Section 9 of the JMC also provides that any covered person or business which refuses to grant the discount on the online/phone/mobile purchase of eligible seniors and PWDs shall be liable for penalties in accordance with RA No. 9994 and 7277, as amended, including their implementing rules and regulations.

The JMC also states “It shall be unlawful for persons to misrepresent himself/herself as senior citizen or Person with Disability.”

The joint DSWD TWG JMC is to be signed among government agencies — DTI, DSWD, National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC), National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), Department of Health (DOH), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The DTI version includes Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, DSWD, BIR, NCSC, NCDA, DOH, and DILG.