By Adelle Louise R. Tined and Faith Katrina Anne B. Camba
Laguna senior citizens expressed their concerns regarding their social pension and healthcare. Some of their concerns were addressed in the “Lider ng Laguna: A Gubernatorial Candidates Leadership Forum” last Apr. 27. Out of the three candidates, only Sol Aragones from the Nacionalista Party was able to attend the forum.
Social Pension for Senior Citizens
Victor Valenova, a senior citizen from Magdalena, Laguna, found his current medical assistance insufficient. In an interview, Valenova appealed to future local government officials to give them additional pension for their maintenance medicines. He said “Nauubliga pa rin kami bumili [ng gamot] sa labas sa tulong ng mga anak na nagtatrabaho. Pero paano po yung ibang wala?”
As a recipient of a pension from the SSS, Valenova is unqualified to receive a social pension as a senior citizen.
According to Lucena Cube, head of the Office of Senior Citizen Affairs in Magdalena Laguna, senior citizens that reached 60 years old and above would have the privilege of receiving a P500 social pension monthly. But not all seniors are able to receive a social pension. To become a recipient, a senior citizen must be indigent, frail, sickly, or with a disability. Another requirement is that they must be without a permanent source of income or receive little financial assistance from relatives. Lastly, they should not receive any pension from the government, like SSS and GSIS.
Concerns like those of Tatay Valenova’s are raised in the recently concluded forum where the gubernatorial candidates were asked on their plans to support senior citizens welfare.
Aragones shared that she is one of the principal authors of the Universal Social Pension Bill, an amendment to the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010. It seeks to grant senior citizens a minimum of ₱500 regardless if they are indigent. The bill is also being amended to make qualification easier.
“Salamat sa batas pero alam naman natin matagal pa to bago maging batas,” Aragones stated. According to the candidate, Laguna has a budget of ₱4 billion. And if elected governor, she plans on using the funds to increase the five hundred social pension to ₱1,000. “Ang ₱500 na natatanggap nila [seniors citizens] ngayon ay gagawin nating isang libo dahil kakayanin naman ito ng pondo na meron tayo,” she said.
Development of Public Healthcare
Apart from pensions, some senior citizens also call for better health care services. Elizabeth Santillan, a fifty-eight-year-old senior citizen in Los Baños, Laguna, stated that health care is one of the present issues that seniors face. She calls for free check-ups, blood chemistry, and hospitalization for senior citizens.
Moreover, Rosario Almonte, 65 years old, said “Walang sariling provincial government hospital dito sa Calamba. Need pa itakbo sa ibang karatig probinsya”. While her brother, 64-year-old, Rollie Almonte, stated that he would also like to have a birthday gift, free medical consultation, and subsidized hospitalization. He also asks for the future governor to help seniors as best as they can.
In the forum Aragones mentioned that one of her top priorities is to plan on building a tertiary hospital for the people of Laguna. She said “Hindi ito in a snap magpapatayo tayo ng tertiary hospital. May proseso at handa akong tiyagain na igapang ang prosesong ‘yan hanggang matupad ang pangarap ng mga taga-Laguna na magkaroon ng isang ospital na kumpleto sa kagamitan.”
An Appeal to the Youth and Future Government Officials
Violeta Quintana, 77- year old senior in Los Baños, shared her concern for the future generation. “I hope that they would be able to use their critical thinking talaga. Para mapili nila kung sino- sino ang mga liders na dapat mamuno for the next six years and for the next 3 years for the local government”, she said.
Quintana also appealed to the future officials to think about what legacy they would leave for the future generations. She said, “Sana naman ang isipin niyo pagkawala na kayo, ano ang mga memories na iiwanan niyo sa mga taong pinamunuan niyo. Kasi mas importante yun. The values that you have shown, the character that you have manifested, those are what will linger in our memories. Especially of the memories of this generation.”
Apart from senior citizens’ welfare and public health, topics such as children’s welfare, infrastructure, forestry, rural development, e-sabong, traffic, fake news, and the pandemic were also discussed.
And as for the other two candidates: Berlene Alberto and incumbent Governor Ramil Hernandez, they will be given the chance to answer the same questions. Their response will be shared on UPLB’s Facebook Page.
The forum was organized by The UPLB College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology, and the College of Veterinary Medicine in coordination with #UPLBsaHalalaan2022. The event can be re-watched on UPLB’s Facebook Page.