Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go emphasized the continuing need to protect senior citizens as they remain to be one of the most vulnerable sectors during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health emergency. He also appealed to affected senior citizens for understanding as the government does its best to protect them and other vulnerable groups from catching the deadly disease since there is still no known and approved cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
“Wala po kaming ibang hangarin kundi protektahan ang kapakanan ninyo. Konting tiis lang po, ginagawa na ang lahat para maalagaan kayo at malampasan natin ang krisis na ito,” Go said as he appealed for the public’s full cooperation in order to ensure the safety of all affected Filipinos.
“Sinisigurado lang ng gobyerno na ligtas na at hindi magiging dahilan ng lalong pagkalat ng virus ang paglabas ng mga tao. Ayaw natin na mag-spike ulit. Ayaw natin na magkaroon ng second wave pa. Iniiwasan nating mag-collapse ang health system natin,” he said.
“Hindi naman forever ito. Magtulungan lang tayong maprotektahan ang mga pinaka-vulnerable sa sakit. Phasing naman ito. From ECQ to GCQ, lahat naman tayo gustong mag-normalize ang sitwasyon sa tamang panahon,” he explained.
Go stressed that the elderly population should be amply protected, especially as enhanced quarantine community (ECQ) measures in some areas are downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ).
“Kita naman po sa data na ang elderly population natin ang isa sa mga pinaka-vulnerable sa COVID-19. Nararapat lamang po na doble doble pa rin ang pag-iingat nila,” he said adding that data show that among the age groups, the elderlies are the most vulnerable with most severe cases of infection.
Official data from the Epidemiology Bureau indicate that people aging 60 years and older account for 43.8% of total deaths in the country.
The Senator expressed his support to the imposed guidelines that discourage senior citizens and those with pre-existing medical conditions from leaving their homes given their vulnerability to the virus, subject to certain exemptions as the Inter-Agency Task Force may determine.
“Dahan-dahanin po natin ang pagluluwag ng quarantine measures dahil vulnerable sila sa sakit. Sana po huwag na muna lumabas ng bahay ang mga matatanda pati na rin ang may mga pre-existing medical conditions. Karamihan po kasi ng severe cases ng COVID-19 ay mga matatanda at ‘yung mga may existing na karamdaman na,” said Go.
Go, however, suggested that certain exemptions may be granted especially for senior citizens who are gainfully employed and those needing basic necessities and health services, provided that there are no other available alternatives, such as assigning a guardian to do these tasks for them.
“Naninigurado lang po tayo kaya inaabisuhan ng gobyerno ang mga pamilya na huwag na hayaang lumabas ng bahay ang mga bata, matanda, at may karamdaman na kung hindi naman po kailangan,” Go said.
In order to protect the welfare of senior citizens and encourage them to remain in their homes, Go urged the government to exhaust all necessary means possible to assist and deliver to them their needs.
“Dapat bigyan natin sila ng kaukulang atensyon at ipatupad nang maayos ang mga batas at programa na naglalayong mapangalagaan ang kanilang kalagayan at kapakanan,” he said.
Go earlier urged the Department of Health to make sure essential medicines are available to senior citizens. He also reminded the government to properly implement Republic Act No. 9994 or commonly known as “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” for the welfare of the elderly. Republic Act No. 9994 states that senior citizens are entitled to the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount and exemption from the value-added tax (VAT), if applicable, on the purchase of medicines and such other essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment to be determined by the DOH.
“Siguraduhin natin na magagamit ng mga senior citizens ang kanilang mga benepisyo base sa batas na ito lalong lalo na sa pagbili nila ng medisina na makakatulong na mapanatili ang kanilang maayos na kalusugan,” the Senator explained.
Go also urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development to immediately release the Social Pension of qualified indigent senior citizens up to as much as a lumpsum of their six-month social pension to assist them and their families for their immediate needs while under community quarantine.
“Ayon sa 2016 na datos ng DSWD, 19.1% lamang sa ating mga senior citizens ang merong GSIS at SSS pension. Kaya nakikiusap rin ako na madaliin na ang pagbigay sa mga indigent senior citizens ng kanilang 6-month lump sum Social Pension bilang dagdag na tulong sa panahon ng krisis,” Go appealed.
Go also emphasized that since senior citizens are considered part of the vulnerable sector, DSWD must ensure that qualified senior citizens receive aid from the government.
According to the Joint Memorandum Circular issued by DSWD and other involved agencies on the provision of social amelioration measures, people who are part of the vulnerable sector include senior citizens, persons with disability, pregnant and lactating women, solo parents, overseas Filipinos in distress who were repatriated or banned from traveling outside the country on account of the COVID-19 outbreak, indigent indigenous peoples, and underprivileged sector and homeless citizens whose combined family income falls within the poverty threshold.
As a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee monitoring the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Go said that all concerned agencies and LGUs must aim to perfect the distribution system of food and cash assistance including aid for qualified senior citizens.
“Maliban sa mga poorest of the poor, kasama rin sa mga dapat mabigyan ng ayuda mula sa DSWD ang mga ‘vulnerable groups’ katulad ng mga senior citizens,” he said.
Go also stressed that according to DSWD, senior citizens from low income families or with families who are wholly dependent on them and have no income or savings to draw from during the quarantine period are qualified to receive social assistance.
“Dapat na masiguro ng DSWD at iba pang ahensya ng gobyerno na hindi mapapabayaan ang mga senior citizens, lalo na yung mababa o walang kita, o may mga pamilyang sinusuportahan din,” he said.
Earlier, the Government Service Insurance System granted Go’s appeal to facilitate the early release of pension for its retired members./Stacy Ang