Giving what is due
All throughout our youth, we work hard and save up for a comfortable retirement. We look forward to the day when we could watch our grandchildren play and devote ourselves to activities beyond the rigors of labor.
It is a time-honored Filipino tradition to care for the elderly and ensure that they are supported in their twilight days. While, it is the duty of the family to take care of its elderly members, it is the State's role to design programs of social security for them.
In 1992, I authored and sponsored the Senior Citizen's Law which grants benefits and special privileges to the Filipino elderly.
At this point in their lives, health is perhaps the most important concern. Senior citizens are entitled to a 20% discount on the price of medicines anywhere in the country and can avail themselves of free medical and dental services in government establishments anywhere in the country.
However, it is discouraging to hear recent reports of some pharmacies imposing a 12% value-added tax on the sale of medicines, even on senior citizens. This, in effect, prevents the elderly from fully enjoying the benefits mandated by law, and instead are able to avail of only an 8% discount.
A few days ago, I met with Finance Secretary Teves and BIR Commissioner Buñag, together with Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines (FESCAP) National President Marcelino dela Cruz, Secretary General Jose Ordonez, NCR President Jorge Banal and other officials, to review and amend the BIR interpretation which imposes the 12% VAT on the senior citizens discount. Both Secretary Teves and Commissioner Buñag were sympathetic and supportive of the senior citizens' position.
We pride ourselves for our close families ties and for caring for the elderly, who in their earlier days, have made valuable contributions to the country. In fact, many of them continue to take part in nation-building through social and community work. Hence, it is only just that what the right hand has given to senior citizens must not be taken from them by the left hand.