THE E-VAT (Expanded Value Added Tax) exemption for Filipinos aged 60 and above is definitely welcome news.

But you don’t see me jumping with joy, simply because the crooks among businessmen will always find ways of beating around that provision of the Expanded Senior Citizen’s Act of 2010 or Republic Act (RA) 9994.

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So the tug-of-war incidents between senior citizens and crooked establishments will not diminish. Sure, the elderly will show laminated copies of the news clipping about the E-VAT exemption. But the crooked establishments will hide behind every clerk or salesgirl or other employees hired to feign ignorance or worse, lie for their leech of a boss.

Okay, okay, there’s the penalty clause—P10,000 to P50,000 OR imprisonment of between one month and six months. But the earlier 2003 version (RA 9257) specified the penalties to be a minimum of P50,000 for minimum and maximum of P100,000 AND imprisonment of between six months and two years.

So the downscaled penalties could mean any or all of these explanations: One, the government’s tacit admission of its inutility in enforcing the law; Two, the government’s bowing down to a negotiation from the crooked businessmen; and Three, the intensified zarzuela between law enforcers and crooks in business.

One could think that the downscaling of penalties is due to the government’s success in implementing and enforcing the law, and that the violations were effectively curbed.

Clearly, though, this was and is an illusion. Else, the arrests or even reprimands of violators would already have made headlines, bisan na la’g sa inside pages. And media would’ve gladly bannered these stories, simply because such incidents have been the proverbial needle in a haystack.

These many others, and I know for a fact. Out there are establishments flagrantly violating the law. Some of them trumpet equal-opportunity policies on their billboards and posters. Others are franchise holders. Still others are restaurants with sophisticated or class-sounding names, or even pharmacy chains all over the city.

My family and I make it a point to have our meals in different places, and make observations about these establishments’ compliance with the government-mandated benefits for senior citizens.

We’ve found the following to be honest implementers: Shakey’s outlets anywhere, the Mercury Drug store along Fuente Osmeña and fronting Robinson’s department store, the Pizza Hut outlet in the Gaisano Country Mall complex, and the cinema houses of both SM City and Ayala Center.

I personally found three Rose Pharmacy outlets as violators. One is along A.S. Fortuna St., another on the ground floor of the Banilad campus of the University of Cebu, and the third in the Ayala Center complex itself. This, despite their special signs put up for a separate lane for senior citizens.

Irish writer Oscar Wilde said it succinctly: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly. Bad people will find a way around the laws.” So, for now let’s hold the dancing.