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Bill doubling indigent seniors’ monthly pension to P1,000 lapses into law

The bill increasing the monthly social pension of indigent senior citizens from P500 to P1,000 is now a law, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva disclosed Tuesday.

Villanueva, sponsor of the measure in the 18th Congress, shared a copy of Malacañang’s letter signed by Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, informing the Senate president that the bill has lapsed into law last July 30.

Under Republic Act 11916, private entities that will have senior citizens as employees shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income, equivalent to 15% of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to senior citizens subject to the provision of Section 34 of the National Internal Revenue Code as amended.

This will be applied provided that the employment shall continue for a period of at least six months and that the annual income of the senior citizen does not exceed the latest poverty threshold as published by the Philippine Statistics Authority for that year.

The law also mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management, in consultation with other stakeholders, review and when necessary, adjust the amount of social pension every two years after the effectivity of the law.

This will take into account the present consumer price index as published by the Philippine Statistics Authority and relevant economic indicators, as reported and published by pertinent government agencies and authorities.

The law also provides social safety assistance which is intended to cushion the effects of economic shocks, disasters and calamities for senior citizens.

The social safety assistance will include food, medicines, and financial assistance for domicile repair. It will be sourced from the disaster or calamity funds of the local government units subject to the guidelines issued by the National Commission of Senior Citizen (NCSC).

Apart from the increase in the monthly social pension for indigent senior citizens, the law also provides options other than cash payout for the pension to reach the target beneficiary.

Under the law, the transfer could be done through direct remittance through the engagement of a service provider duly accredited by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, electronic transfer, or other modes of delivery, whichever is more practical and acceptable to the beneficiary to ensure its release in the "most expeditious and efficient manner."

The transaction fee, if any, shall not be charged to the beneficiary.

The measure also transfers the implementation, distribution, and management of the social pension for senior citizens from the Department of Social Welfare and Development to the NCSC within a period not exceeding three years.

Further, the DSWD and the NCSC, after the full transfer of the former's functions and programs to the newly-created commission, shall update and validate the list of target beneficiaries annually with the assistance of the PSA.

Thirty days after the effectivity of the act, the NCSC, in consultation with the DSWD, DBM, and other concerned government agencies and non-government organizations as well as people's organizations, shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the law.

In May, the Senate approved on third and final reading the proposed Act Increasing the Social Pension of Indigent Senior Citizens and Appropriating Funds Therefor.

The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the bill.

In an interview with reporters, Villanueva said around 4.085 million indigent senior citizens will benefit from this law.

He expressed confidence that the government has resources to fund the law which might require around P22 billion to P24 billion annually.

According to Villanueva, the government can source the funding from sin taxes, revenues from TRAIN Law, CREATE Law, and Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators.

In a statement, House Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto, who was the Senate president pro tempore when the bill was passed in the 18th Congress, raised the need for P25 billion to fund the law.

"If the bill doubling the monthly P500 pension to P1,000 has lapsed into law, then it would mean that the budgetary requirement will also double to P50 billion," he said.

"So this is the P25-billion-question whose answer will be found in the 2023 national budget that Malacañang will soon submit to Congress," he added.

He also explained that the P50 billion estimate only covers the senior citizens currently enlisted in the program and excludes persons who turn 60 this year, nor those who were already 60 and above but who, for one reason or another, have been left out of the list.

If no appropriations will be made in next year's budget, Recto said it will be up to Congress to save the law from ending up as an "unfunded mandate."

He noted that the lack of appropriation of the law under the 2022 National Expenditures Program (NEP) is "understandable" as the budget preparation by the Executive Department is now "at its last mile."

Recto then suggested tackling the funding of the law during the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting which, he said, should be called by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. soon.—AOL, GMA News