Press Release
September 3, 2010

850,000 seniors left out in next year's pension program

Only 145,150 indigent seniors - and not 4.3 million as claimed by Department of Social Welfare and Development officials - are set to receive the monthly P500 pension next year, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

The culprit : The decision of the government to raise to 80 the minimum age by which a poor senior citizen can qualify for the monthly stipend mandated in the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

By raising the age requirement, Recto said the government is moving to effectively disenfranchise "tens of thousands" of impoverished seniors from receiving the pension, one of the many in the raft of benefits authorized under Republic Act 9994.

Recto noted that the above law clearly states that "economically disadvantaged" persons 60 years old and above would qualify for the monthly aid "but it appears that next year's budget has effectively amended that."

"Is 80 the new 60? In the government spending dictionary, yes. But a rising tide must raise all ships. We cannot have one class of expendables," Recto said.

Recto said the P1.6 trillion 2011 budget which Malacanang wants Congress approved contains an outlay of P871 million for the monthly pension of 145,150 "80 something" indigents, way below the billions of pesos bandied about in the press.

Recto appealed to the DSWD and the Department of Budget and Management to amend the criteria and allow seniors below 80 years of age to join the first batch of RA 9994 pension beneficiaries.

"We hope that the pool of recipients would expand by the time the budget is transmitted by the House to the Senate. We know how hard it is to identify and complete the paperwork of probable beneficiaries but we're still confident that the list would grow," Recto said.

To hasten the submission of the roster, Recto suggested to the DSWD to tap the "poverty maps and databases" and of local governments. "There was also this P1 billion Poverty Mapping Project of the DSWD a couple of years ago. Its results should be helpful," he said.

"The initiative should come from the executive side, knowing how allergic they are to congressional earmarks," he said.

But if it fails to expand the list, then Congress might be forced to step in and enlarge the "scope of entitlements," Recto said. It is one "good healthy pork for seniors" worth incorporating into the 2011 budget, he added.

By government count, there are 4.1 million senior citizens this year and at least more than 1 million are classified as indigents.

Recto said next year's proposed budget would leave about 850,000 senior beneficiaries out of the pension loop "simply because they have yet to reach the "ripe age" of 80".

Recto said the budget and social welfare departments may have to explain where it got the pruned figure of 145,150 indigent senior citizens as instant beneficiaries of the P500 monthly pension.

"Was this a result of mass purging or many of them have climbed up the economic ladder in just less than a year?" he said.

News Latest News Feed