KEY POINTS:  Cebu City's senior citizens office Osca warned recipients of cash aid to vote on May 9 or forfeit the money. News headlines give the impression that voting is a must.
 "No vote, no cash aid"? Not necessarily. If the city ordinance's voting requirement is tied to the election law, Comelec doesn't "deactivate" a voter until after he fails to vote in two successive elections. Meaning, a senior is not delisted if he fails to vote in just next week's election.
 The mayor said he'd risk being imprisoned as he'd pay out the cash aid even if the recipient fails to vote this May 9. He can pay out without the risk of jail. There must be two consecutive failures to vote to be delisted by Comelec. Besides, the ordinance is not clear about the active registration and voting requirement. The latest amendment to the ordinance speaks only of new applicants.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED. Last Tuesday, May 3, the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca), through its executive director Jeffrey Ocampo, said recipients of cash aid from Cebu City should vote on May 9 because being a registered and active voter is required by the ordinance.
The next day, May 4, Mayor Michael Rama corrected at a press conference the Osca statement, saying seniors will still get the cash aid from the city even without voting on May 9. Mayor Mike said has "never been in favor of connecting voting" to the grant. He said he can suspend the requirement on voting, as he did before. He said he'd rather be in prison for giving "what's due to the seniors" than obey the legal requirement.
WHO'S RIGHT? Both Osca and the mayor are correct, up to a point.
Osca's Ocampo omitted a crucial fact about the consequence of not voting in the 2022 election. The warning of "no vote, no cash aid," was attributed to him. That's right but he didn't qualify. He didn't say the recipient had to fail to vote in two consecutive elections before Comelec would delete his name as an active voter. He was exaggerating: the consequence, as one will see, is not immediate for most recipients.
And Rama wouldn't be in danger of going to jail even if he'd order the payment of cash aid to all listed recipients, including those who'd fail to vote this May 9. The reason is that for most recipients, it could be still the first omission and they'd still be in the Comelec list. Besides, he could work, with Sanggunian help (at least until June 30), to suspend the requirement. And that requirement, it must be underscored, appears to apply only to new applicants, not to those already in the city's list before 2013.
THE CITY ORDINANCE. The city ordinance on cash aid to senior citizens (ordinance #2453, as amended by ordinance #2529) provides, among its requirements, that the applicant "must be a registered voter of Cebu City as of 2013, as evidenced by recent and original Voter's Certificate issued by Comelec."
That's the third of four requirements, in letter "c" of section 5. Atty. Charisse Piramide, chief of the City Council secretariat, told Explainer Thursday, May 5, the ordinance has been "revised so many times" and the latest amendment on section 5 [c] was approved on June 4, 2019.
FOR NEW APPLICANTS ONLY? The ordinance's provision on voting is, as earlier said, not specific, giving room for ambiguity.
Does it apply only to new applicants? It requires, for "the New Applicant," to be "a registered voter as of 2013," with the original voter's certificate to be used as evidence. What if the new applicant meets the requirement and is added to the city list of recipients, would he and old-timers in the list lose the right to continue receiving the cash aid if later they are removed from Comelec records for failure to vote?
Note that the ordinance talks only of being a registered voter, from which is merely implied that the recipient must be an active voter.
There seems to be no provision in the ordinance that says the recipient must continue to be a registered and active voter or lose the right. The requirements are for joining and not expressly provided to be causes of expulsion if later violated, like, for example, no longer voting in Cebu City. It doesn't say that the roster of recipients shall be continually updated and synchronized with Comelec records.
Provincial Election Supervisor Marco Lionel Castillano -- who's from Cebu but was reassigned last January 15 to Negros Oriental for the elections, told Explainer Thursday, May 5, that "after each election, Comelec personnel update the voting history of each voter, based on records of the election day computerized list." The computer, Castillano said, will delete the names of those who failed to vote for two consecutive elections.
The impression that the voting requirement applies only to new applicants is reinforced by a "wherefore" in the amendatory ordinance, which noted there are new registered senior citizen voters in Cebu City "who were born and raised in the city but had transferred to other parts of the country or the world due to the call of the profession or work."
DEACTIVATING VOTERS. The law on general registration of voters (Republic Act #8189 of 1996, Art. 12, Sec. 27 [d]), "Deactivation of Registration," includes removal of election records and deactivation of registration of "any person who did not vote in the two (2) successive preceding regular elections as shown by the voting records."
The requirement of being registered and an active voter to qualify as cash-aid recipient must be tied to the Comelec law on registration. The said law specifies the process of being registered and being deactivated.
The problem though is that under the amended ordinance, the requirement appears to apply only to new applicants and not those who have been in the list of recipients since the cash aid program for seniors was started.
GOOD INTENTION, UNCLEAR RESULT. The cash aid is given to seniors, aged 60 and above, numbering more than 23,000 people. They cost the City about P280.7 million per year if each one claims for and receives the annual stipend of P12,000 or P1,000 per month.
It's not known if the screening of beneficiaries has strictly followed guidelines. Also not ascertained is the process of weeding out those who later become disqualified, such as those who moved out of Cebu City to a nearby town or city or failed to vote in this city for two successive elections.
Any improvement of the local law may start with making the ordinance as unambiguous and specific as can be.
EXPLAINER: Ordinance on aid to Cebu City seniors unclear on voting requirement. Osca's 'no-vote, no-cash-aid' warning exaggerates consequence. No jail risk to Mayor Rama under an ordinance that's vague on failure to vote.
May 05, 2022
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