The Cebu City Government should revisit City Ordinance 2453, which stipulates that senior citizens must be registered and active voters so they can avail themselves of the annual P12,000 financial aid.

The rationale behind this requirement could be this: the City wants to make sure that the recipient is a resident and still alive.

Voting amid the coronavirus pandemic is risky for senior citizens as they belong to the vulnerable section of the population, so much so for the unvaccinated ones. There are about 92,000 adult residents in the city who are 60 years old and above who are qualified to receive the cash assistance.

Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs executive director Jeffrey Ocampo has not received any appeal from his fellow senior citizens to eschew the active voter requirement.

City Councilor Joel Garganera has said he would suggest to Mayor Michael Rama to waive the requirement, make an executive intervention about it as there is an existing ordinance as the City Council is on recess for the May 9 elections, and talk with his fellow councilors about the possibility of inserting amendments to the ordinance. For his part, Rama has said the senior citizens can still get their cash assistance even if they cannot vote on May 9, and he may issue a resolution to suspend the ordinance’s provision. The question is, if the mayor’s order has overriding power over an ordinance.

Even if politicians won’t admit it, the ordinance was enacted not just to help the elderly but also for political reasons—it is aimed at getting the debt of gratitude from the senior citizens whose voices could be revered in their households and whose decisions on who to vote for during elections could influence their children, grandchildren, or to some extent, great-grandchildren. So blessed are the incumbent officials distributing the financial aid—they have the political upper hand over their opponents.

If the Cebu City Government wants to help the adult residents who are 60 years old and above, it does not have to require them to vote.

Being grateful to the senior citizens must have no conditions. As long as they are alive and as long as the City has the funds, they must receive the cash aid even if they do not practice their right to vote.

Thus, the Cebu City Council must amend City Ordinance 2453.