The Supreme Court has declared that the statutorily mandated 20 percent discount for senior citizens covers funeral and burial expenses.
In a decision, the SC ruled that the mandatory discount is provided for under Republic Act No. 7432, the Senior Citizens Act of 1992, as amended by RA Nos. 9257 and 9994, which expanded the coverage of the discount.
The high court, through a decision penned by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, stressed that funeral and burial services are covered by the 20 percent discount.
The SC “emphasized that the Senior Citizens Act is a law created to grant a bundle of benefits in favor of senior citizens or those at least 60 years old, giving flesh to the declared policy of motivating senior citizens to contribute to nation building and encouraging their families and communities to reaffirm the Filipino tradition of caring for the senior citizens.”
The Court decision granted the petition filed by the Office of theSolicitor General (OSG) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The petition challenged the 2018 ruling of the Cagayan de Oro City Regional Trial Court (RTC), which excluded funeral and burial services from the coverage of the senior citizens’ discount.
The RTC ruling was handed down on the case filed by Pryce Corporation, Inc., a firm that sells memorial lots and offers interment services.
It claimed that interment service is not among the services entitled to the 20-percent senior citizens’ discount.
The RTC ruled that the IRR of RA 9994 only mentioned the services of purchase of a casket or urn, embalming, hospital morgue, and transport of the body to the intended burial site.
Specifically, the RTC held that the digging of land for the grave of the deceased, the concreting of the gravesite, and the other services done during the actual burial are not subject to the discount.
In granting the government’s petition, the High Court found that the RTC’s exclusion of interment services from the coverage of the 20 percent senior citizen discount is not provided under the law and that the IRR, which does not explicitly exclude interment services, cannot be interpreted to support the lower court’s resolution.
“A law cannot be amended by a mere regulation, and the administrative agency issuing the regulation may not enlarge, alter, or restrict the provisions of the law it administers,” the SC said.
The Court noted that both RA 9257 and RA 9994, in amending RA 7432, do not provide an exact definition of the term “funeral and burial services.”
“Notably, the said laws likewise do not limit the scope of the services falling under ‘funeral and burial services,’” it said.
The Court added that as pointed out by Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier in her concurring opinion, it would be unreasonable to infer that Congress intended to differentiate between the deceased’s final solace for the purpose of granting the 20% discount absent a clear legislative intent to the contrary.
Based on the definition of the term “burial,” the tribunal emphasized that it is commonly understood that “burial service” pertains to any service offered or provided in connection with the final disposition, entombment, or interment of human remains.
Because of this, the SC held that it follows that burial services necessarily include interment services, such as digging the land for the deceased person’s grave, its concreting, and other services being done during the actual burial. Rey E. Requejo (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“This conclusion, said the Court, was supported by the IRRs (Implementing Rules and Regulations) which prescribe the guidelines in
the application of the 20% discount on funeral and burial services in that a comparison of the IRRs of RA 9257 and RA 9994 shows that the two are substantially the same,” the SC said, in a statement released by its Public Information Office.
“The exception is that Section 6 of the IRR of RA 9994 expounded on the term ‘other related services’ by including a sample list of ‘services’ and excluding obituary publication and cost of the memorial plot,” it said.
The High Court also ruled that the enumeration in Section 6 is not exclusive. It stressed that the phrase “other related services” does not refer only to the enumerated examples to exclude interment services.
The SC maintained that this interpretation was in keeping with the policies and objectives of the law, particularly of RA 9994 which echoes Section 4, Article XV of the Constitution declaring that it is the duty of the family to take care of its elderly members while the state may design programs of social security for them.