Lawyer to Congress: Add more discount provisions in laws on elderly, PWDs

Lawyer to Congress: Add more discount provisions in laws on elderly, PWDs

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

A LAWYER advocating for senior citizens’ rights asked Congress on Wednesday to include specific provisions in existing laws to grant discounts in purchasing supplements and paying the toll on expressways.

“Many establishments also are still denying seniors [their] benefits on the purchase of discounts on vitamins and mineral supplements,” Romulo B. Macalintal, who has represented senior citizens in several cases, told a House joint committee hearing that looked into how discounts for the elderly and differently-abled are being followed by commercial establishments.

“The problem on this issue is because the provisions of previous IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of Republic Act No. 9994 did not contain any provision on vitamins and mineral supplements,” Mr. Macalintal said, referring to the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

He also noted amended laws on senior citizens’ and persons with disabilities’ (PWDs) rights repealed provisions granting them expressway toll discounts.

Quoting the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), Mr. Macalintal said that “it was not intended by Congress to give them the discount [on expressway fees].”

He also said that some hotels and lodging establishments would deny senior citizens and PWDs their respective discounts because “their rate is already on promo.”

Mr. Macalintal cited a 2014 decision by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in which “double discounting is applicable only when the giving of discount is for the establishment’s promotion and a DTI permit is applied and secured.”

Party-list Rep. Rodolfo M. Ordanes, who heads the House senior citizens committee, called for the passage of a House bill seeking to grant discounts to senior citizens with disabilities when buying vitamins and mineral supplements.

Mr. Ordanes added that hotels and lodging establishments must provide training for their staff members on specific policies when billing for senior citizens or PWDs.

Mr. Macalintal also raised complaints against local government units (LGUs) that supposedly require senior citizens to register as voters before they can avail themselves of benefits they deserve.

“Such requirement is a violation of one’s right to register or not to register as a voter. Registration of voters is not mandatory, but it is only voluntary,” Mr. Macalintal said.

The National Council on Disability Affairs recorded 154 complaints on discounts for PWDs, programs management division head Rhealeth Krizelle D. Ramos told congressmen.

Meanwhile, a coffee shop chain took responsibility for displaying a wrong sign at one of its branches, advising customers that the 20% discount for senior citizens, PWDs and other government discounts are limited to one food item and one beverage per visit.

“We fully acknowledge the error in this signage in question,” Angela Cole, operations director at Starbucks Philippines, said during the hearing.

“To assure everybody here, Starbucks has always and will continue to extend full discount privileges to the seniors and PWDs for their personal use and enjoyment,” she said.

Ms. Cole told congressmen that the sign has been taken down and will not be seen in any of its coffee shops.