CAN the Cebu City Government really afford to give its senior citizens a monthly allowance of P1,000?
I am asking this question because Mayor Edgardo Labella is asking the City Council to approve a P455-million supplementary budget so the City Government can dish out financial aid to the more than 75,000 elderly in the city for the rest of the year.
That’s a lot of money to be throwing around for a selected few, considering there are far more pressing problems that need to be addressed.
Just look around. Waterways that clog up and overflow during heavy downpours. Garbage that lie uncollected for days on end. No public landfill. Families living on the streets. Inadequate housing. And the list goes on.
I hate to remind people that we live in a third world country beset by third world problems. That money is better spent on basic services that benefit everyone, not just those considered senior citizens.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against giving the elderly a helping hand. But I thought that was the concern of the National Government, not the local government unit, and that it had been addressed when Republic Act 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, was passed.
According to the law, “elderly Filipinos aged 60 and above are entitled to a 20 percent senior citizen discount and exempted from the value-added tax (VAT) on applicable goods and services for their exclusive use.”
That means, senior citizens should receive discounts on generic and branded medicines, vitamins and mineral supplements; on medical supplies and equipment like hearing aids, eyeglasses and wheelchairs; on medical and dental services in private facilities like blood tests, X-rays, etc.; on professional fees of attending physicians and licensed health workers; on domestic air and sea travel fares; on public land transportation fares, including taxis, shuttle services, jeepneys, etc.; on accommodation and amenities in hotels, beach resorts, mountain resorts, etc.; on food, beverages, desserts and other consumables for dine-in, take-out, drive-thru and delivery orders in restaurants; and on recreation centers.
I say “should” because there are some establishments that have become adept at skirting the law, but this column is not about that.
Back in 2015, then mayor Michael Rama was criticized for distributing cash gifts to the elderly on allegations he was doing this to win the 2016 elections, which he lost to now former mayor Tomas Osmena, who, if I remember correctly, started it all.
Which is precisely why I am not a big fan of this “largesse.” It reeks so much of politicking.
That year, the City’s annual budget for this purpose was P115 million even though it was giving each senior citizen P12,000, but that was because there were only at least 60,000 of them back then. And the number of senior citizens in Cebu City is growing every year. It won’t be long before it tops 100,000.
So what then?