Senior citizens caught in the crossfire

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Thursday, January 9, 2014


IT'S true that beggars cannot be choosers. But the 60,000 senior citizens registered in Cebu City did not beg for the P12,000 financial assistance; the city government promised it to them. And now, with P2,000 of last year’s allocation still to be received by them, they’re being told that their gift will be cut by half this year?

Mayor Michael Rama tries to pin the blame for the 50 percent income loss for the elderly this year on the city council for slashing his P10.5 billion 2014 budget to only P5.89 billion. But as Sun.Star Cebu pointed out yesterday, this year’s budget allocates P720 million “solely as direct financial assistance to qualified senior citizens, to be released in a monthly basis at P1,000 per month.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to know that P1,000 per month means P12,000 in one year. You multiply that amount by the number of registered senior citizens in the city (60,000), you get exactly P720 million, which is the same amount set aside in the 2014 budget for the Cebu City senior citizen’s program.

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If Rama had proposed an amount higher than P720 million for financial aid to senior citizens and the council cut it to that amount, he could
probably still have found an excuse to complain. But if his budget allocation was exactly the same that the council approved, then his claim is unjustifiable and untruthful.

It’s a pity that partisan politics continue to define the relationship between the Cebu City mayor and the council. And what a tragedy that senior citizens should be caught in the crossfire.

***

If the bunkhouses are unliveable, what does that make of the tents in the South Road Properties (SRP)? Note that both are intended to be temporary shelters only. The bunkhouses are at least made of wood, are elevated and have galvanized iron roofing. On the other hand the tents are… well, you have seen the tents.

I am not trying to belittle the tents, only to point out that the Yolanda victims have a roof over their head, be it from bunkhouses or from tents.

And have you noticed that the complaints about subhuman conditions in the temporary shelters do not come from the evacuees but from other, and more privileged, persons? Assuming that their criticism is true, what are the critics doing other than criticizing?

By the way, I am happy that the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) in Cebu City have clarified that there is no such thing as policing donors and donations in the Tent City. Earlier reports, based on an interview with a so-called leader of the Tent City dwellers, said that donations will be screened in order to protect the dignity of the evacuees, some of whom come from well-off families.

Apparently, the so-called leader was speaking out of turn and I am glad that the local DSWS immediately acted to put him in his proper place.

***

The new Cebu City Medical Center will be built not in the SRP as earlier proposed but in its current site. That means that the old building, which sustained extensive damage from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake, will have to be demolished. It also means that the budget for the new hospital will not be higher because it will include the cost of demolition.

I wonder how much has been raised from the Piso Mo, Hospital Ko campaign.

I am mentioning this because I heard that the Archdiocese is launching or has launched a similar campaign to raise funds for the international Eucharistic congress to be held here in 2016. The Church campaign will necessarily affect that of the city.

City Hall should therefore look for other sources of funds. Selling some of its properties, not necessarily the SRP because it might not get the nod of the council, should be an option.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 09, 2014.

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