Complaint filed vs DSWD, DTI over 'inaction' on online privilege guidelines for PWD, seniors
This undated file photo shows senior citizens wearing face masks.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos, File photo

Complaint filed vs DSWD, DTI over 'inaction' on online privilege guidelines for PWD, seniors

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - March 7, 2021 - 11:33am

MANILA, Philippines — A consumer group has filed a complaint report against the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Trade and Industry before the Anti-Red Tape Authority for "inaction and failure to comply" with earlier commitments to act on calls to draft guidelines for online discounts for senior citizens and PWDs. 

"It looks like [the commitments] of the DTI and DSWD have been lip service," Victorio Dimagiba, president of consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc., told Philstar.com in Filipino in an online exchange. 

"Up to now [there has been no] public consultation on online shopping guidelines for seniors privileges," the lawyer also said. 

To recall, the group in an October 26 letter addressed to Wilma Naviamos of the DSWD urged the government to craft guidelines allowing senior citizens and persons with disability to avail of their discounts and benefits in e-commerce purchases.

The Anti-Red Tape Authority is a body under the Office of the President mandated to "ensure compliance with the national policy on anti-red tape and ease of doing business in the country."

RELATED: Add to cart: Discounts for seniors, PWDs in online shops

“Most senior citizens and persons with disabilities above 65 years old purchase food items and other goods online and are not able to claim the discounts granted by law. In most cases, the merchants do not know what and how to grant the discounts," Dimagiba wrote in the letter acquired by Philstar.com. 

Dimagiba stressed that "clear and easy, convenient implementation" of discounts for senior citizens would be timely amid the difficulties brought on by the coronavirus-induced lockdown and "the dwindling resources both in the economy and for individual consumers."

Lack of updates

Asked about calls to grant PWDs and senior citizens discounts for online transactions amid the coronavirus pandemic, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista, in a virtual briefing in November, said the agency had already partnered with the Department of Trade and Industry to craft a policy that will check the rules for online purchasing for the two sectors.

In response, Bautista pointed to the existing laws outlining benefits for the two sectors, including the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 and the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability. "Senior citizens and PWDs are entitled to these benefits as vulnerable sectors," he said. 

"I want to remind our agencies to continue coordinating with the concerned offices, including the National Council on Disability Affairs and the National Commission of Senior Citizens and other implementing agencies," the former general added. 

No update on the policy has come since then. 

"The letter was acknowledged, the DSWD Secretary was quoted on social media that he had requested the DTI to craft the guidelines. Further, in a much-publicized TV interview, the DTI committed to issuing the guidelines before the end of the month," LKI said in its complaint sent to ARTA, a copy of which was acquired by Philstar.com

"However, up to now no such guidelines and mechanics have been issued neither a call for public consultation has been done. We are requesting the ARTA intervention that this matter be resolved soon," it also said. 

The Anti-Red Tape Authority has since acknowledged receipt of the complaint, though no update or response has yet been given. 

A separate email from the National Council on Disability Affairs in response to the first letter also said: "Please be informed that Section 11 of RA 10754 states that Person with Disability discount can be availed upon presentation of the Person with Disability ID card to the establishments."

"However, the discount is not applicable to online purchases which only provides delivery service that connects local businesses to people. Delivery charges are not included in the 20% discount application," it added. 

Discounted discounts 

The lack of discounts for online purchases for both senior citizens and PWDs has been one issue that both sectors have called attention to amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

House Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera on Friday filed a resolution in the lower chamber calling for a probe into the failure of food delivery services to honor the mandated 20% discount granted senior citizens by law in transactions, many of which take place online. 

House Resolution No. 1626, or A Resolution Directing the Appropriate Committee of the House of Representatives to Conduct an Investigation, in Aid of Legislation, on the Failure of Food Delivery Applications to Honor the Senior Citizens Discount Granted in Accordance With RA 9944 Otherwise Known as “expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, cites mounting complaints from senior citizens who are unable to avail of their discount privileges on applications like Grab and FoodPanda. 

The House solon argued that the privilege should apply to such transactions. 

The Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, says that: “for delivery orders, the 20 percent discount shall likewise apply subject to certain conditions, i.e. senior citizen ID card number must be given while making the order over the telephone.”

In an earlier study published in July, think tank the Philippine Institute for Development Studies found that many senior citizens struggle with poverty, with about 890,000 or 13.2% belonging to families classified by the government as income poor while another 400,000 or around 4.3% of them are recorded as food poor. 

“The money equivalent to the 20 percent discount of the senior citizens may be utilized for the medicine and other maintenance expenses as well as other necessities,” the lawmaker said. 

"In this time of pandemic and quarantine where the liberty of our senior citizens are limited as they are considered of high risk of incurring the coronavirus disease," she added. 

RELATED: NGO: Database needed to spot fake PWD IDs, ease doubt on disability community

In an earlier Philstar.com story, non-government organization PWD Philippines sent a proposal to the Presidential Communications Operations Office calling for a privatized and functioning PWD database, saying it would alleviate the doubts surrounding the PWD ID's integrity. 

"Because of the problems with the integrity of the PWD ID, many vendors have become wary of honoring their discounts, all because of a few fake IDs that have come into circulation," the proposition reads. 

"The ID is meant to give PWDs some kind of reprieve from the heavy and punishing rigors of social indifference and ignorance, while also the government’s way of giving them some extra benefit to assist with their already burgeoning medical bills therapy costs," it also says. 

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