here is an interesting twist to the plight of some senior citizens who feel their complaints are not being attended to by government offices, like the Department of Trade and Industry and the local Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA). When government institutions are unresponsive to the plight of our people, it is left to media to try to help them out.
Last month, Antonio Chong wrote about his experience with Bizu Patisserie and Café located at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City.
“As a father and senior citizen, I enjoy the small pleasures in life such as occasionally receiving a gift certificate from my son who is in the United States. Last Saturday, April 18, at around 9:30 to 10 pm, I brought my family to the Bizu Patisserie and Cafe for the purpose of consuming a gift certificate sent by my son. It was a celebration of sorts because my youngest son had just passed the Bar, and would be taking his oath of office as a new lawyer.
“When our bill was presented, I naturally gave them my senior card and that of my wife. And then I gave them the two gift certificates each amounting to P500 as payment. The cashier looked at our senior cards and said, they could not honor our senior cards because of our mode of payment. When I asked for an explanation, the cashier Ms Maritess Norambaba insisted that it was their policy not to grant a senior citizen discount if payment was through a gift certificate. I explained to the cashier and asked her to call up her boss, explaining to them that a gift certificate was in fact better than cash because it was bought and paid for in advance. She called her boss, Mr. Aaron Tarko, who offered instead to give me a P40 discount. I naturally refused to accept the token discount offered. I considered the P40 as a consuelo de bobo of the restaurant to shut up an old man.
“To cut a long story short, I paid with the gift certificate without any senior citizen discount. Since in the past, nothing ever came out of my complaints to DTI and other offices I thought maybe I should write to you this time.”
This is the first time this type of transaction has been brought to our attention. Tony Chong does not mention who issued the gift certificate and the conditions covering the use of the said certificate. For example, Rustan’s issues gift certificates, but they are good only for use at Rustan’s outlets. The writer also does not mention how much of their total bill was for the benefit of senior citizens in his party.
What puzzles me is that Bizu accepted the gift certificates as payment but without allowing the senior citizen discount. My feeling is that if the gift certificate was treated like legal tender, there is no reason why the senior citizen discount should not be applicable. Oftentimes our laws do not cover every possible situation—in this case, the use of the gift certificates. Common sense and sound discretion are most important in the fair resolution of this type of incidents.
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The suggestions of Bernardo V. Peralta of Cebu City regarding amendments to the Senior Citizen law in order to make it more beneficial for the elderly members of society are well-taken.
In particular, as Mr. Peralta has pointed out, there is need for the local OSCAs to be given prosecutorial powers so that the office can forcefully go after violators of the law. Right now, business establishments are not afraid of the complaints being filed with OSCA because they know that nothing much would happen, except possibly the inconvenience of having to reply to the notices being issued by OSCA.
The suggestion for a special court to be designated by the Supreme Court to hear senior citizen law violations is also warranted. At this time, when the implementation of the law is spotty and ineffective, there is need for a few examples of violators who disregard the rights of senior citizens, being punished.
Of course, the most important amendment would be to raise the senior citizen discount to 32 percent, since the imposition of the 12 percent EVAT practically reduced the discount to only 8 percent.
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Friends of former President Fidel V. Ramos called to say that he was on the cover of Time Magazine, Asia edition, on May 15, 1995. My apologies.
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A few weeks ago, I noted the 17th anniversary of the passage of the “Magna Carta for Persons With Disabilities.” The National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), under Mrs. Lovely Romulo, continues to advance the cause of our disabled, providing them with opportunities for integration into the mainstream of community life.
With so many unemployed these days, it has become even more difficult for the disabled in our society to find any kind of meaningful work. In pursuit of social responsibilities, many companies employ persons with disabilities. Let me mention some of them so as to create a greater awareness of the generous assistance being extended by the business sector to our less fortunate citizens.
The Lamoiyan Corporation employs 12 deaf mutes who are regular employees of the company. They are aged 22 to 55 years, and are in production and maintenance work. Most are high school graduates and have been with the company from two to 20 years.
Drugmaker’s Laboratories in San Pedro, Laguna, employs 10 regular and five casual employees who are deaf mutes, out of approximately 500 company workers. Most are high school graduates and they hold key and technical positions in tableting and packaging. The company is engaged in the production of an array of pharmaceutical products, household items, glass cleaners and toll products. What’s surprising is that these disabled workers receive a higher daily wage than the minimum in the area.
The Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC), specifically the Central Mail Exchange Center (CMEC), has 27 deaf mutes as employees, both male and female, working as mail sorters, dispatchers and checkers. They have been working in the agency for more than 15 years and were hired during the time of postmaster general J. Roilo Golez. Perhaps, the current president and general manager, Hector Villanueva, can add a few more to the payroll of the PPC.
The University of Santo Tomas (UST), College of Fine Arts and Design, has four faculty members with disabilities. They are all orthopedically handicapped persons (polio victims) who started their faculty work during the term of Dean Jaime delos Santos.
Personal Collections is a corporation engaged in direct selling of various consumer merchandise nationwide. Their National Capital Region branch recently hired five persons with disabilities—mostly, polio-afflicted—as trainees. They do invoicing, inventory checking and other types of clerical work.
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VICE President Noli “Kabayan” De Castro (that’s how he signed his name) wrote to say he agreed fully with my Feb. 15 column that “(p)romos and discounts given to all customers cannot nullify, modify or circumvent the senior citizens law.” He was referring to my opinion that hotel and restaurant outlets that have already reduced their prices via sales or promotional discounts must still grant an additional 20-percent discount for senior citizens.
E-mail deluge. That Feb. 15 column brought an e-mail deluge. Ben Canlas, who hosts the “Senior Citizens’ Forum” every Sunday over dwIZ 882, wrote that, at his request, Noli Villafuerte of the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) in Makati called up the Makati Shangri-la and the Manila Peninsula. The two hotels agreed with my opinion and promised to “rectify their shortcomings” in refusing to honor the seniors’ discount on top of their own sales discounts.
To test this promise, I treated my family (my wife, two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren) to a Japanese dinner on Feb. 28 at the Inagiku Restaurant of the Makati Shangri-la. After I handed my credit card, “Senses” discount card, and my wife’s and my senior citizens cards, the waiter balked, saying that he could honor only the discount card but no longer the seniors’ discount.
I replied that before refusing, he should first consult his manager. He returned with a wide grin and handed me the invoice (called “guest cheque”) showing a “Senior Citizen Disc” of P435 for my wife and me, and a “Senses Open Disc” of P1,856 corresponding to a 20-percent reduction for all of us. I happily signed the credit card charge slip. Note that the restaurant honored the two discounts of 20 percent each even if I paid with a credit card.
Retired Judge Federico Y. Alikpala Jr. complained that “many, if not most, restaurants” did not extend the elderly discount on “take out orders,” and some, “like McDonald’s,” imposed a maximum of P30-discount, regardless of the amount of consumption. He also suggested that, to be fair, the 20-percent seniors’ discount should be charged in full to the seller’s income taxes—as was the case under the original statute—instead of to the seller’s gross income under the present “expanded” law. In this way, the government would be shouldering the full cost of the discount.
Federico H. Lizarondo independently confirmed Judge Alikpala’s lament on the maximum P30-discount. He added that some professionals jacked up their fees before giving discounts, thereby charging the same price.
Rudy Coronel supported Judge Alikpala’s proposal to charge the entire discount to the government, arguing that making the seller absorb the greater bulk of the price reduction was “downright inequitable” and that, in any event, the law did not contain clear guidelines on how exactly business establishments could “collect from the government what is due them without much hassles.”
Burger King grants discounts. I spoke with Alberto D. Lina, chairman of Burger King, during the Fedex golf tournament in Canlubang on Feb. 27. He assured me that all outlets of Burger King honor the 20-percent seniors’ discount, whether paid in cash or via credit cards.
Retired Air Force Col. Rocky B. Denoga rued that “not one doctor or dentist I’ve consulted with or who treated me has ever given me any discount even when I asked for it.” Jun Guiao went at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28 to the Red Ribbon restaurant “along President Avenue, BF Homes to buy a birthday cake.” He was granted the discount only if he paid cash, but not with a credit card.
After being told of my opinion that the discount should be given even if payment is by credit card, the fast-food outlet called up Guiao “at 2 p.m.” on March 2 agreeing to honor the seniors’ discount even when paid with credit cards. Now, according to Guiao, “the senior citizens around BF Homes are very happy” to patronize Red Ribbon.
Better implementation needed. In his long letter, Vice President De Castro said that, at his intercession, “drugstores (led by no less than the Mercury Drug chain) agreed to honor the 20-percent discount… even for credit card purchases.” I replied that there are still many little details of the law that have not been fully implemented, or that seniors find difficulty in enforcing.
For instance, Gil Guzman asked how he could avail of the tax exemption granted to the elderly. Cromwell O. Refuerzo wondered why seniors are charged the 12-percent VAT that reduces the seniors’ discount to only 8 percent. There are other benefits that cry for implementation, like the provision of express lanes, priority in airport counters and reserved parking.
True, the Expanded Senior Citizens Law (Republic Act 9257)—of which Vice President De Castro was the main author and sponsor while he was still a senator—mandated all cities and municipalities to create the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs.
However, there is no uniform interpretation or enforcement of the law on a centralized level. Consequently, I suggested—and the Vice President agreed—that his office should act as a national action center for the enforcement of the Senior Citizens Law as well as a forum to hear people who are prejudiced by the law’s wrong implementation.
Thus, whenever they have queries or suggestions, the elderly (and those acting on their behalf) may now visit, call or write Kabayan at the 7th floor, PNB Bldg., Macapagal Boulevard., Pasay City; Tel. 833-4507; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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Comments are welcome at email@example.com
Updated February 24, 2009 11:01 PM
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Developing Asian nations are not doing enough to provide for their rapidly aging populations and need to take quick steps to prevent an aging crisis, a study released by the Asian Development Bank today said.
By 2050, Asians aged 65 or older are projected to comprise 17.5 percent of the region’s population – or more than 920 million, while the median age will rise to over 40, the report said.
While richer countries like Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore have older populations, the study said the region’s developing countries are tracking the same demographic path at a much faster rate.
More than half of Asia’s elderly will live outside the most affluent economies, and poorer countries including Laos, the Philippines, Pakistan, Indonesia will suffer more because of low incomes, lack of institutional care for the elderly, and substandard health care.
“Unless we start making difficult policy choices soon, there is very little chance that Asia will age gracefully,” the study said.
The report – which cited declining fertility and mortality rates as a reason for the boom – warned that there will likely be a contraction in the labor supply and consumption, declines in savings and investment rates, and slower economic growth.
The report urged developing countries to increase per capita income, strengthen or establish pension systems, attract more capital for investments and invest in education.
It also encouraged cross-border flows of labor and capital within the region.
Japan is and will remain the region’s oldest country, where nearly two out of every five people will be 65 or older by 2050, the study said.
DURING the year that is about to end, many of our people have developed an increasing awareness of their rights and benefits under the Senior Citizens Law—a piece of social legislation that has provided our elderly some respite from the growing costs of health care, along with similar advantages in public eateries, transportation and other facilities. While Republic Act 9257 was signed into law more than four years ago in February 2004, it is only recently that we have begun to feel its impact on our lives. For one thing, there was little effective dissemination of the provisions of the law and, oftentimes, business establishments came up with all kinds of interpretations on its implementation, often to the detriment of the senior citizen.
In my case, the moment of confrontation arrived when two years ago I decided to use my credit card to pay for medicines at a Mercury Drug outlet. Over the years since a heart bypass operation some 12 years ago, my medical needs for blood pressure control, diabetes and prostate problems had kept mounting, and with the increased costs of prescription drugs, the situation required a larger cash outlay each time I visited the drugstore. Every now and then, I would attempt the use of my credit card but the clerk would always inform me that I could only enjoy the senior citizen discount with a cash payment. And because I didn’t know any better, I accepted with a growing feeling of frustration what was being unilaterally imposed by the business establishment.
Earlier, Vice President Noli de Castro had sent a letter to the Inquirer informing senior citizens that they could avail of the 20-percent discount regardless of the manner of payment. He went on to say that the law did not distinguish whether the payment was made in cash or via a credit card. Armed with a copy of the Vice President’s letter, I proceeded to my favorite Mercury Drug outlet prepared for a showdown on the issue of the use of the credit card by a senior citizen. To my great disappointment, Mercury Drug refused to budge from its original position, saying that the matter had to be referred to their main office for instructions.
I related my experience to Vice President De Castro and he immediately called for a meeting attended by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Finance Secretary Gary Teves and Ms Vivian Ascona, president of Mercury Drug Inc. It was agreed that Ms Azcona’s problem with the BIR on the treatment of the 20-percent discount as a deduction from gross income instead of a tax credit was an issue that should be addressed separately. The benefit granted to senior citizens should not be held hostage to this problem.
A few days later, the Vice President’s office informed me that Mercury Drug had agreed to honor the discount on payments made through the use of a credit card. After allowing some time to get the new arrangements in place, I decided to visit Mercury Drug for my usual supply of medicines. To my relief, the 20-percent discount was honored with my credit card!
Since then, friends have informed me that they now also enjoy the same arrangement. But from time to time, we still receive various complaints from other senior citizens. Some drugstores limit hours of operation for senior citizens, some indicate a lack of supply of the medicines when they become aware that senior citizens are their customers and, in a few instances, their use of credit cards result in non-availment of the discount. In the face of these practices, not much could be done immediately to correct the situation considering the urgency of their needs.
So for us senior citizens, the year 2008 has been a mixed bag of blessings and frustrations.
Let me mention a few of the positive developments aside from the credit card issue which we had just related. There is now a general acceptance of the 20-percent senior citizen discount in most restaurants and entertainment facilities. There remains the issue of uneven, inconsistent application of the discount particularly when it involves a mixed group of senior and non-senior citizens. There needs to be more fine-tuning of this problem area for greater uniformity of implementation. I might add that a number of business establishments have been quite liberal in their own interpretation of the law in favor of the senior citizens.
Some local executives, particularly Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, have been actively supportive in ensuring that the Senior Citizen Law is properly implemented, at times calling to account those establishments that have come up with their own versions of the law to the detriment of elderly citizens.
If we think about it, even more than national agencies, it is the local government units that can readily assist us in ensuring compliance with the law. In fact, the law specifically provides that “it shall be the responsibility of the municipality/city, through the Mayor, to require all establishments covered by this Act to prominently display posters, stickers and other notices that will generate public awareness of the rights and privileges of senior citizens and to ensure that the provisions of this Act are implemented to the fullest.” The Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) in each city/municipality throughout the country should be the first line of defense for the senior citizens. I realize that often the local
OSCA is undermanned and ill-equipped to deal with the problem but we must not be discouraged. Change never comes easily.
A word about KFC—it has mellowed in its treatment of senior citizens. Whereas in the past, it highlighted the restrictions (sometimes of its own making) applicable to senior citizens, I now notice its signs proclaiming that “the senior citizen discount is honored in this establishment.” What a few changes in language can do for its image!
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While the law provides these benefits for senior citizens, it is important to bear in mind that they are for the exclusive use or enjoyment of senior citizens. Friends or even family members are not legitimate beneficiaries of this law. Let us not abuse the privilege. Such actions may lead to the imposition of all kinds of safeguards if not outright revocation of the privilege. Remember that every right carries with it a corresponding responsibility and if we are to live up to our title as senior citizens of the nation, we must show our juniors that we are not above the law and that we lead by example.
LAST Thursday was a celebration of life and also of death in the family. It was the 12th anniversary of my triple bypass operation at St. Luke’s Medical Center, and each time I swing a golf club, I am reminded that the fine work of surgery done by my cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Estanislao “Stan” de Castro, has allowed me to keep going through the last 12 years with relative strength and comfort. Doctors Greg Rogelio, Butch Recto and Helen Ong are also on my mind for their care and concern during the early phase of my ailment.
It was also the 30th death anniversary of my father, Modesto Farolan, and I thank Dr. Greg Patacsil for the care and attention extended to him during critical times of his life. Dad would have been 109 this year. A self-made man with just a high school diploma to his name, he carved out several careers in journalism and government service through sheer determination, hard work and discipline. In the tough world of newspaper work, he rose from cub reporter to become publisher and editor in chief of the Philippines Herald, one of the major dailies of his time. Wading into uncharted waters, he organized the Philippine Tourist and Travel Association (PTTA) and became the nation’s first commissioner of tourism under President Ramon Magsaysay. His work in this industry earned him the title “Father of Philippine Tourism.” A string of diplomatic assignments as ambassador to South Vietnam, Switzerland and later Indonesia would round out his career in government.
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At the age of 88 going on 89, former Senate President Jovito Salonga continues to fight for our rights as he has done through a lifetime of service to country.
Last December, he went to a Jollibee eatery to test the observance or lack of it of the Senior Citizen law. To his disappointment, the outlet refused to honor his credit card, insisting that he pay in cash. They probably thought an old man would not make too much fuss over the matter, even as they must have known with whom they were dealing. His credit card had his name on it.
Well, that was a big mistake. Right after the incident, Senator Salonga informed Vice President Noli de Castro of his experience, citing my earlier encounter on the same issue with Mercury Drug. He added that “despite my advanced age, I am prepared to follow up this matter so they will follow the rule of law instead of the rule of convenience.” The Vice President then wrote the president of Jollibee, Mr. Ernesto Tanmantiong, “enjoining them to comply with the law allowing the Senior Citizen discount for both cash and credit card purchases.”
Apparently as a result, a meeting was held at the office of Senator Salonga with Jollibee personnel in attendance. Briefly, the explanation given by Ms Meldyjane Pizana, Jollibee Acacia Lane branch manager, for the non-acceptance of his credit card was “kasi, wala po kaming credit card facility machine.” Senator Salonga found it difficult to accept that “the most popular fast-food restaurant in the whole country” didn’t have such a machine. Ms Pizana replied that their application for the machine was being processed, but could not specify an actual operational date. She apologized for the inconvenience, adding that once they had the machine, credit cards would be accepted.
Somehow I share Senator’s Salonga’s skepticism about Jollibee—a food giant in this country—not having a credit card machine. On the other hand, it is possible that a newly opened branch may be in such a predicament.
Jollibee could have easily avoided this incident if its personnel immediately informed Senator Salonga about the absence of the credit card facility—a case of faulty communication skills. We continue to receive complaints about business establishments not accepting credit cards for senior citizen discounts. We must always be prepared to call attention to these violations of the law if we are to eliminate the “rule of convenience” as practiced by some firms.
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Another former senator, Eddie U. Ilarde, at 75 the oldest living radio-TV personality in the country today, and president of Golden Eagles Society International, sent me some notes on his dream of putting up a Philippine counterpart to the Senior Center in Frisco, Texas that I mentioned in an earlier column.
The Center would be called Golden Eagles Arcadia, after a region in ancient Greece offering rural simplicity and tranquility. It is certainly an ambitious project indicative of Ilarde’s concern for the welfare and dignity of the elderly in our country. His goal is for Arcadia to be a health and spiritual retreat for our senior citizens. Eddie explains that “heaven smiles upon those who care for and service the sick and the elderly.”
Incidentally, Eddie’s “Book of Seniors,” a compilation of jokes, medical advice and words of wisdom concerning senior citizens, makes for interesting reading for people of all ages. One striking bit of information comes from Ann Pawliczko of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). She says, “during the next two generations, the number of the world’s people older than 60 will quadruple, rising from 606 million now to 2 billion in 2050 … They will outnumber children for the first time in human history. More and more, it is not the children who are our future, it is the seniors … the most significant population shift in history.”
Last Saturday, Ilarde received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) for his “long service in media as a disciple of truth in information.”
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One of the more poignant letters that I have received from senior citizens comes from Bienvenido M. Quizon of Barangay San Jose in Lipa City. It highlights the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in our society. For many of our elders, the perks of senior citizenship remain just a dream.
Quizon writes: “There are more poor senior citizens than the ‘have’ ones. Poor senior citizens do not patronize restaurants, KFC and other fast-food chains. We make do with ‘turo-turo’ or ‘karihan.’ Concerts and seeing movies are alien to us. I for one have yet to enter a hotel. We are regular tricycle riders. Buses, LRT, ships and airplanes are for the moneyed senior citizens. We are clients of faith healers and ‘arbularios.’ Even at discounted prices, drugs are not within our reach. How much more enjoying the comforts of St. Luke’s and other well-known, expensive medical centers.”
Until we can narrow the gap between rich and poor in the country, many of our laws do not effectively serve the interests of the vast majority of our people.