Senior financial assistance: Cash straight to loan sharks?
Odessa O. Leyson (Banat) - October 3, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Loan sharks are reportedly holding on to the senior citizen IDs of 344 of the 689 senior citizens in Barangay Suba, Cebu City, and only give it to them during aid distribution day so seniors can get the amount allotted to them by the city government and pay off the balance in their loans.

Apolonio Maranga Jr., head of Barangay Mayor's Office in Suba, said loan sharks are making a big business off seniors.

"Financial need sa mga senior citizens ang usa sa rason nganong iprenda nila ang ilang dawatonon. But ang loan shark ang naghatag nila'g idea to prenda, big business ni nila," Maranga told The FREEMAN.

"Ihatag sa ila ang ilang card on the day nga mang-release sa financial assistance, mag-atang ang loan shark ug ang mga tawo sa loan shark. Aron inig kadawat sa seniors, diretso ra og bayad sa ilaha," he said.

Maranga said their IDs also serve as collateral of the borrowed money.

One of these loan sharks is reportedly a relative of an incumbent Suba councilman. The FREEMAN is withholding the name of the alleged loan shark for since the person could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

 "Naanad na lang sila ana nga setup kay mao man na'y practice ever since pagsugod nila og prenda ngadto sa loan shark," Maranga added.

Maranga said he plans to bring this matter to the city government.

In a separate interview, Office of Senior Citizens Affairs head Domingo Chavez said he has not yet received reports of seniors pawning their IDs to loan sharks in his almost two years in the post.

However, he said there must be a proper investigation to address this issue. Department of Social Welfare and Services head, former councilor Lea Japson, also said she did not receive a report of this happening.

Yesterday the seniors received P1,000. It was the seventh tranche of the P12,000 promised to them yearly by the city government. The money was distributed by the city's disbursing officers together with barangay officials.

However, Maranga said there were seniors in Suba who did not get their financial assistance because the wrong payroll was submitted to the barangay.

"Tungod kay dili mao ang payroll number nga gihatag sa taga-barangay hall, wa makakobra ang ubang seniors," he said.

Despite what happened in Suba, Japson said majority of the 80 barangays in the city did not experience difficulties in the distribution. In fact the distribution finished earlier than expected.           

The cash aid distribution was held in barangay halls, barangay complexes, and public schools.

Chavez said they already informed the seniors beforehand on the venues of the distribution to avoid a repeat of what happened last August 20 when some seniors did not know where the aid was being distributed in their barangays.

Earlier, Councilor Jose Daluz III said in a privilege speech that he received complaints from the barangays after it was announced the distribution will be done through private individuals affiliated with Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan.

However, Japson clarified that nothing has changed but only some distribution venues were changed because some barangays did not have facilities where the aid could be given to senior citizens.

The 67,300 registered senior citizens in the city are given 10 days to claim their financial aid from the day of distribution. Those who fail to claim within the grace period automatically forfeit the amount.

Meanwhile, Chavez said there was no update yet of the plan to distribute financial aid through Automated Teller Machine. He said if it will be implemented this must be studied well to make sure the elderly will not be disadvantaged.

This plan was first suggested by former Mayor Michael Rama for the convenience of senior citizens claiming their cash assistance. (FREEMAN)

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