Hike funding

Funding bugs new law increasing pension for indigent seniors

A vice president said Tuesday that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. should immediately convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss priority legislation and new laws, including funding for a new law increasing the social pension of indigent elderly people.

Vice President and Batangas Representative Ralph G. Recto said the executive and legislative departments should now work together on how to fund the law, which will cost 50 billion pesos a year.

“This year, the social pension program for indigent elderly people covers 4,079,669 elderly people, which costs taxpayers 25.01 billion pesos a year,” Recto said.

“Finding the fiscal space to fund this law can be addressed at the LEDAC meeting which I would recommend President Marcos, in the spirit of cross-industry dialogue, to convene soon,” Recto added.

The LEDAC serves as an advisory and advisory body to the President as head of the national economy and planning agency for further consultation and advice on certain programs and policies essential to the achievement of the objectives of the national economy. It also serves as a venue to facilitate high-level policy discussions on vital issues and concerns affecting national development.

If the bill doubling the monthly pension from 500 pesos to 1,000 pesos becomes law, Recto said, it would mean the budget requirement would also double to 50 billion pesos.

“So that’s the 25 billion peso question that will be answered in the 2023 national budget that Malacañang will soon submit to Congress,” he said.

“If no funding provision will be made in the proposed appropriations for next year, which is understandable because the executive’s budget preparation is now in its final mile and only the finishing touches are being applied, then it will be up to the Congress to save the law from ending up as an unfunded mandate,” he added.

Recto also reiterated that the estimated cost of 50 billion pesos only covers seniors currently enrolled in the program.

“This does not include people who will turn 60 this year, or those who were already 60 and over but for one reason or another were excluded from the list,” he said.

“One estimate puts 60 billion pesos as the amount needed to enroll all qualified beneficiaries, including nada retirees deprived of this old-age safety net,” Recto added.

In the Senate, Senator Grace Poe, one of those who had championed the measure, welcomed the development but expressed hope that it could be properly implemented.

For his part, Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, who had also strongly backed him, conceded that implementing the law as it stands might not happen quickly, given the budget constraint. On the one hand, he said, the implementing rules and regulations will have to be worked out. Villanueva said senators are looking so early to review budget proposals from various agencies — budget season is about to begin — with a view to determining how funding allocations can be changed to implement the new law.

Clear the bureaucracy

The chairman of the House Committee on the Elderly has called on the enforcement agencies to eliminate red tape so that the elderly receive their P1,000 pension immediately.

Senior Citizens Representative Rodolfo Ordanes made a statement as increasing the social pension for indigent seniors is now law under Republic Act 11916.

“RA 11916 is just the beginning. We reaffirm our commitment to all seniors so that our fight for a universal retirement for all seniors continues. We will continue to fight,” he said.

“We are now in the middle of the third quarter, the Senior Citizens Party list calls on implementing agencies to do all they can to ensure that the new indigent senior pension rate is funded, implemented and paid to beneficiaries by the end of September or mid-September -October at the earliest because the elderly need the money the most to meet the rising costs of everything,” he said.

Ordanes said government agencies should eliminate all red tape and technical delays that previously hampered the release of pension funds.

“Compromised version”

Former Deputy House Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate hailed the enactment of what he described as “a long-awaited law increasing the social pension from P500 to P1000”, now under Republic Act 11916.

But Zarate, lead author of the measure in the lower house of the 18th Congress, said the “compromised version” of the measure that became law last July 30 is still lacking because it is expected to expand coverage for older people who can benefit from it. . increased pension.

“The Senate version passed by the House of Representatives to expedite its approval still contained the discriminatory provision requiring that a senior be frail, ill, or disabled before they could be considered an indigent senior to qualify for the pension,” noted the executive vice president. Chairman of Bayan Muna.

“This provision has already been removed by the amendments introduced by Bayan Muna and approved in the House in August 2021, but the version of the Senate prevailed,” said Zarate, adding that Bayan Muna will engage the 19th Congress for the adoption of a bill eliminating the said discriminatory provision.

The amending bill increasing the pension had been awaited “for almost 12 long years by our senior citizens”, Zarate said.

With Butch Fernandez