Senator De Lima bats for guaranteed protection of senior citizens against abuse

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Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill which seeks to reinforce legal protection and provide welfare support services to senior citizens who suffer various forms of abuses.

Last April 16, De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, has filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1434, otherwise known as the “Protection of the Elderly Act”, to fortify the government’s response to elder abuse.

“As one of the vulnerable sectors comprising our population, the provision of basic needs, promotion of the social welfare of the elderly and their protection against abuse must have consistent and strong presence in our social legislation,” she said.

“No less than the 1987 Constitution guarantees the preference to this sector where the government and its policies shall likewise “give priority for the needs of the underprivileged sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children,” she added.

De Lima also cited a study from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that that one out of six senior citizens experience abuse, and that such a phenomenon is one of the least investigated types of violence anywhere in the world.

She also mentioned that, according to the same WHO study, the most common perpetrators of elderly abuse are the victim’s own children and other family members.

“Despite the enactment of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, there is no specific legislation that guarantees the protection of our elderly against various abuses along with the proper social welfare support services and access to redress for possible victims,” De Lima, a former justice secretary said.

“With strong laws protecting the sector of women and children from abuse, it is also imperative to have a dedicated national legislation on the prevention of elder abuse across the country,” she added.

Aside from physical and psychological abuses, Section 4 of SB 1434 also details other forms of acts of violence against the elderly, including material exploitation that causes the elderly to be financially dependent on the abuser; abandonment or desertion of an individual responsible for the elderly person; and threatening to cause any physical harm to a senior citizen.

By way of legal remedies, De Lima’s bill specified options for the victim to acquire Protection Orders from his or her Barangay (Barangay Protection Order), or from the Courts (Temporary or Permanent Protection Order) to ensure that the victim can be separated from the abuser.

To acquire such Protection Orders, and to be able to receive actual, compensatory and exemplary remunerations from the State, SB 1434 also proposes that the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), and a special prosecution unit under the Department of Justice will handle complaints of violence against senior citizens.

De Lima also proposes that perpetrators found guilty of abuse to senior citizens that resulted to the death or mutilation of the victim shall suffer penalties in accordance with the Revised Penal Code (RPC). All other acts, however, shall be punishable by prision correccional and a fine not less than P100,000 to P300,000.

In addition to the aforementioned penalties, perpetrators found guilty of any acts under Section 4 of SB 1434 will also be required to undergo mandatory psychological counseling or psychiatric treatment.

The proposed measure will also put to task the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), National Commission of Senior Citizens, in coordination with the victim’s Local Government Unit (LGU), to provide the abused senior citizen with the following social welfare support services:

• Temporary shelters in a senior housing or a nursing home;
• Medical assistance
• Counseling, healing, recovery and rehabilitation services; and
• Appropriate programs to ensure the personal safety and security the senior citizen to prevent the recurrence of the violent acts committed against them./Stacy Ang

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