De Lima bats for universal social pension for senior citizens

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima expressed support for the renewed push to propose social protection for the elderly by providing a universal social pension for senior citizens.

In her opening statement submitted for the hearing of the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development last Jan. 25 presided by Sen. Joel Villanueva on her behalf, De Lima said the government should ensure that senior citizens are cared for.

“Our senior citizens have always been with us through thick and thin. They have suffered this pandemic with us. They deserve to be given the opportunity to also be part of our country’s recovery program,” she said.

It can be noted that there are two sets of legislation discussed during the hearing, which include bills increasing the social pension for indigent senior citizens under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

The bills, which include Senate Bill (SB) No. 570 authored by Sen. Nancy Binay and co-authored by De Lima, propose to increase the present P500 pension of elderly to P1,000.

“This seeks to address the increasing prices of commodities especially due to the pandemic. I am in full support of this proposal,” she said.

The lady Senator from Bicol likewise expressed support for the second set of bills proposing the expansion of the senior citizen pension to cover all senior citizens regardless if they are indigent or not.

“The present limitation of the program has led to many truly indigent senior citizens to be unable to avail of this assistance because they have been unable to navigate through the bureaucratic maze of applying and qualifying for his program,” she said.

“Indeed, our country has been spending a lot of resources in targeting, regulating, and policing the people who are qualified for the indigent pension. There is also a present moral hazard in granting discretion to so many public officials in determining who receives the senior pension,” she added.

By simplifying the process, De Lima said the government would not only relieve the regulatory pressure from implementing agencies, but would also make it easier for senior citizens to avail of such assistance.

“We would also be able to avoid the corruption that is bugging the present system,” said De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion.

Amid continued discussions, De Lima implored everyone “to keep an open mind and listen to the arguments of everyone, especially the stakeholders.”

De Lima, a senior citizen herself and a grandmother, sponsored and co-authored Republic Act No. 11350 creating the National Commission of Senior Citizens, a new agency dedicated to the promotion of the rights and welfare of senior citizens, which was passed into law last year. (30)

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