Wake Up, Philippines!

Action center for senior citizens

Posted in Consumer, Senior Citizens by Erineus on March 16, 2009

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 vp@ovp.gov.ph

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Comments are welcome at chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com


Surveys of Manila and Parañaque on RH bill

Posted in Abortion, Contraception, Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Surveys by Erineus on March 16, 2009

By Mahar Mangahas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:04:00 03/07/2009

Last Wednesday, at “Usapang PopDev” of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, SWS reported on its February 2009 survey in Parañaque City, showing public opinion on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill as very favorable. This means it is the same as the public opinion on the RH bill in the City of Manila and the Philippines as a whole, as polled in December 2008 and September 2008 respectively.

Among the items of the three surveys were probes into agreement, disagreement, or neutrality on the four key attitudinal statements found below. After each statement are the percentages that agreed versus disagreed; balances from 100 percent pertain to those who were neutral or who did not answer.

1. “The use of condoms, IUDs and pills can also be considered as abortion.” Parañaque: 33-53; Manila: 29-56; Philippines: 33-50.

Thus, at most, one-third of respondents classify condoms etc. as forms of abortion, as claimed by many in the Catholic hierarchy. Abortion is, of course, constitutionally illegal. The surveys make it clear that most Filipinos would not bother to dispute the legal status of these contraceptives on the basis of the abortion argument.

2. “There should be a law that requires the government to distribute condoms, IUDs, and pills to people who want to avail of them.” Parañaque: 70-19; Manila: 64-22; Philippines: 68-15.

This shows an overwhelming public rejection of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to governmental provision of the above-mentioned contraceptives for those who want them. Of course, most people know what church officials are up to — 66 percent in Parañaque and 62 percent in Manila agree that “The church interferes in the affairs of the government, especially in the issues of reproductive health and family planning” — and yet they still maintain high trust in the Catholic church. Fortunately for the faith in the Philippines, there is much more to being a Catholic than following every wish of one’s bishop.

It may be noted that only 15 percent of Filipinos object to having a law requiring the government to distribute condoms etc. to those who want them, even though as many as 33 percent regard such contraceptives as abortion. This means that, even among those personally opposed to condoms etc., most are open-minded enough to let others have an effective freedom of choice.

3. “If family planning would be included in their curriculum, the youth would be sexually promiscuous.” Parañaque: 25-58; Manila: 29-59; Philippines: 25-54.

4. “There should be a law that requires the government to teach family planning to the youth.” Parañaque: 85-9; Manila: 88-7; Philippines: 76-10.

The above are consistent with agreements that “Students of age 15-24 should be given adolescent health education in school” of 87 percent in Parañaque and 92 percent in Manila. They are also consistent with percentages agreeing that “Men and women 15-24 years old should be given family planning information and services” of 86 in Parañaque and 89 in Manila.

Filipinos who know of the RH bill pending in Congress are almost half in the entire nation (46 percent), and exactly half in Parañaque (49 percent) and Manila (51 percent). The bill was described in the survey as “giving the government the duty to promote responsible parenthood through giving enough information to the people and having safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services for people who want it.”

The bottom lines of the three SWS surveys are the percentages in favor of, versus opposed to, the RH bill: Parañaque: 84-9; Manila: 86-8; Philippines: 71-8.

The basic reason why opinions are overwhelmingly in favor of the RH bill is the widespread recognition that the problem of overpopulation in the Philippines is critical. Here are percentages that agree with the following statements: “Population growth increases poverty incidence” — Parañaque 71, Manila 74; “Population growth worsens environmental degradation” — Parañaque 65, Manila 69; “Population growth slows down economic growth” — Parañaque 68, Manila 70; “There is a population growth problem in the Philippines” — Parañaque 64, Manila 69; “There is a population growth problem in our city” — Parañaque 60, Manila 69; “The government of our city should have a policy on reproductive health and family planning” — Parañaque 86, Manila 88; and “The government should provide free supplies or service to the poor who wish to use any family planning method” — Parañaque 87, Manila 90.

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The first of the three surveys was done on Sept. 24-27, 2008, on a nationally-representative sample of 1,500 persons of age 18 and up (error margin of 2.5 percent). The second survey, on Dec. 27-29, 2008, had a sample of 600 persons of reproductive age (meaning, 15-54 years old for males and 15-49 years old for females) from the City of Manila. The third survey, on Feb. 14-17, 2009, had a sample of 600 persons of reproductive age in Parañaque City. The city-level error margin is 4 percent.

All samples were equally divided between males and females. The city-level samples were equally divided among congressional districts, so as to be of equal quality among them; the city-surveys found public opinion the same across districts.

Congresspersons who dispute the Social Weather Stations polls, but sincerely care about opinions in their own districts, should commission their own scientific polls at the local level. In the process, they may as well gather data on how their chances of being re-elected in 2010 might relate to their constituents’ opinions about the RH bill. How many can feel certain that, like their local bishop, they are so appreciated by the electorate that they can afford to openly oppose the RH bill?

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Contact SWS: www.sws.org.ph or mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph