WHAT senior citizens do not have much of is time. And it is the little time--enough to sign into law the amended senior citizens act--that Malacañang cannot grant them.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has said she would not veto the law that was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate last month. But she is taking her time before placing her signature to the document. This is time that is otherwise a luxury for senior citizens who do not really know how much they have left in life.

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The proposed Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2009 seeks to grant senior citizens an exemption from the 12 percent value-added tax on goods, medicine and services.

This would mean that senior citizens will begin to enjoy a full 20 percent discount on the items covered. At present, the tax is not included in the discount offered them.

The 20 percent discount they are supposed to enjoy ends up being cut to only eight percent because of the 12 percent tax.

The new law is supposed to correct the play in percentages. But even such a correction could not take effect without the President taking the time needed to sign the document into law. According to an Inquirer report last Sunday, the President was too busy with her regional visits to sit down and take the time to sign it.

The amended senior citizens law was approved by the two chambers of Congress before it went on recess for the May 10 national and local elections. It was one of Congress's much-awaited acts before it started its long break.

Congress did its part and forwarded the proposed amendment to Malacañang for President Arroyo's signature. Over two weeks have passed since Congress's approval and the document still has to be signed in Malacañang.

Some quarters have raised the prospect of Arroyo exercising her veto powers to disapprove the proposed amendment. This scenario was immediately shot down by presidential spokesmen who said the President will not veto it but she would like to study it further to determine its effect on government's revenue-generating efforts.

Press Secretary Crispulo Icban had said the tax exemption would mean a P.5 billion to P1.3 billion "erosion in annual fiscal revenue."

The latest word from Malacañang, however, is that President Arroyo was busy with her "legacy tours" to have the time to actually sign the document making the amendment a law.

Other benefits to the senior citizens under the proposed amendment are: That minimum wage earners who are senior citizens shall be given exemption from the payment of individual income taxes; free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizen patients; death benefit assistance of a minimum of P2,000 for the nearest surviving relative of a deceased senior citizen; "senior citizens ward" in every government hospital; and indigent senior citizens shall be entitled to a monthly stipend amounting to P1,500 to augment their daily subsistence and other medical needs.

For the estimated four million Filipinos aged 60 and above, let's just hope they could still have time to enjoy these benefits and not croak before President Arroyo could put her pen to that piece of paper.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)