A minority leader in the House of Representatives on Tuesday reiterated his call for the passage of the bill lowering optional retirement age to 56 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro particularly appealed to the Senate to prioritize the bill’s passage, noting that the measure had already been approved on third and final reading by the House and pending at the Senate.
“Government employees dedicate twenty, thirty years of their lives in the service of the nation. It is high time that the government heed their clamor for the option to retire at an earlier age in order for them to enjoy their retirement benefits for as long as possible,” Castro said.
“Since the 16th Congress, we have been pushing for the enactment of the lowering of the optional retirement age of public school teachers,” Castro said. “Now more than ever, we should be able to give government employees who would opt to retire early the option to do so.”
Castro said in preparation for a new normal, there are public school teachers who have difficulty adopting in the online requirements of the blended learning modes of the Department of Education.
She added there are also risks in leaving their houses to cater to the needs of their students in the proposed blended learning modalities of DepEd,” Castro added. “This is why we should already swiftly enact lowering the optional retirement age so that those who would want to retire early may have the option to do so.”
“The Civil Service Commission already expressed its support on this important measure in hearings in the House of Representatives. Civil Service Commissioner Aileen Lizada even urged the Senate to also pass the measure on their part,” Castro added.
The solon said that the measure will not be detrimental to the state workforce as most government employees actually prefer to stay in service for a longer time even working up to 65 years old, the mandatory retirement age, in order to ensure maximum retirement benefits.
“While the 65 years old mandatory retirement age remains, government employees should be given the freedom to retire earlier, especially those who are suffering from ailments and are in need of intensive medical attention especially during this time of a pandemic,” Castro said.
In a related development, a party-list lawmaker urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to prioritize the passage of the proposed amendments to the Centenarian Act which provides cash incentives to senior citizens, especially at this time of pandemic when they count among the most vulnerable sectors needing government assistance.
Assistant Majority Leader and Rep. Alfred Delos Santos of Ang Probinsyano party-list group batted for the enactment of House Bill 4067 in a bid to “expand and extend to more of our elders the benefits from the Centenarian Act.”
“The amendment to the Centenarian Act would allow more of our senior citizens to benefit from the assistance provided under the law,” delos Santos said.
“The monetary aid would alleviate some hardships of our elders in the short-term by allowing them to purchase maintenance medicines and other needs particularly in the midst of a health crisis,” he added.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), delos Santos said the number of senior citizens in the country has been increasing over the past decades despite the fact that the Philippines remains a young population, with median age hitting 23 years old in 2010.
The number of senior citizens, however, has been steadily moving up, reaching 7.55 million in 2015 from 4.57 million in 2000, or an increase of 65 percent, according to PSA. Filipinos aged 70 and over, account for 38 percent of all senior citizens, he added, quoting the data.
In filing HB 4067, delos Santos seeks to advance the P100,000 cash gift to Filipino seniors who will reach the 100 years old to allow them to enjoy the benefits under the law.
According to his proposal, distribution of cash gifts should be given in advance as follows: P25,000 upon reaching 70 years old; P25,000
upon reaching 80 years old; P25,000 upon reaching 90 years old; and P25,000 together with a letter of felicitation upon reaching 100 years old.
Delos Santos’ proposal is now part of the consolidated House bills seeking to amend the Centenarian Act which advances the distribution of P25,000 cash benefit at the age of 80 and every five years thereafter, and another P100,000 when the senior citizen reaches 100 years old.
“The just and humane society that we as a people envision in the Constitution is one which takes care of their elderly and values their dignity as persons. This bill is a step towards that direction,” delos Santos, vice chairman of the House committee on Bicol Recovery and Development, said.