..CEBU CITY – Some 3,000 senior citizens from towns in Cebu and neighboring provinces have transferred to Cebu City in the hope of getting P5,000 from the City Government.
The City’s Office of the Senior Citizens’ Affairs (Osca) found out about this when they validated the applications of the senior citizens who wish to receive the City’s yearly financial aid.
Their applications were immediately disapproved.
In an interview on Wednesday, Jeffrey Ocampo, who is the executive officer of Osca, said that the 3,000 senior citizens who applied for the City’s cash aid came from Badian and Toledo City, among others, as well as the provinces of Leyte and Negros.
“Nag-transfer sila dinhi unya gigamit lang nila ang address sa ilang mga anak nga nagtrabaho na dinhi sa syudad (They used the address of their children who work in the city),” he said.
Ocampo cautioned those who will try to deceive the City to try to get cash aid.
“Di gyud sila apilon sa atong lista. Mahibaw-an man gyud na (They will not be listed. We will know who they are). We want to be honest and frank here nga ang matagaan ra gyud is katong lumad gyud sa syudad (that we will give only to those who are truly from the city), those who are really qualified to get the benefits from the City Government,” he said.
Osca, Ocampo said, is validating every application with the help of the barangays and conducting surveys on the addresses the elderly have specified.
Mayor Michael Rama, when asked about the matter, said he anticipated that some senior citizens in the neighboring areas would transfer to the city, particularly when the guidelines for the distribution of the cash aid were relaxed.
Rama issued an executive order in March 2011, which said that senior citizens who wish to receive the City’s financial assistance no longer have to prove that they are registered voters of the city.
They will just have to get a certification from their village that they were indeed residents of the place for the past five years.
This deviated from the guidelines established by the City in 2009 when the program started. Back then, those who qualify for the cash aid had to be registered voters of the city who voted during the 2007 and 2010 elections.
Rama has decided to amend the guidelines, saying there are legitimate senior citizens in the city, particularly those who are 80 years old, who failed to vote because they were sick or weak.
He said they should not be deprived of the benefits from the City as they are the ones who need more help.
But because of the present problem, Rama, in a news conference Wednesday, said that Osca should ask for a voter’s ID from the elderly whose residency in the city is questionable.
“Mao na sila ang kailangan pangitaan ug voter’s registration. Their intentions are no longer pure. But the most important thing is that they establish the number of years they have been here,” the mayor said.
Asked if he doesn’t want to amend again the guidelines, Rama said that is not necessary. He said he doesn’t want the distribution of cash aid to the senior citizens to be “derailed just because of the problems of the few.”
In a separate interview, City Attorney Jose Marie Poblete said he is asking the barangays to help the City verify the beneficiaries of the financial assistance.
“Kahibaw man ta nga basta naay asukar, naa man gyuy hulmigas (Where there is sugar, expect ants). Mao nang tabangan unta ta nila. We are earnestly requesting the barangays to help us,” he said.
Asked if the City should again require seniors to present a voter’s ID so the program will not be prone to abuse, Poblete believes the move will not be approved by the mayor.
“Gi-relax man gyud sa mayor ang guidelines kay dili siya gusto nga makihawan sila sa kung unsa ang para nila. Naa man gyuy uban nga di na kabotar tungod sa katiguwangon (The mayor relaxed the guidelines because he did not want some senior citizens, like those who are too old to vote, to be deprived of what is due them),” he said.
Under the City’s financial aid program, each qualified senior citizen is entitled to P5,000 as financial assistance every year. Of that, P3,000 serves as the birthday gift, while the remaining P2,000 serves as the Christmas gift.
The senior citizens used to receive only P4,000 but Rama increased it by P1,000 last year.
Under the City’s P5.2-billion budget this year, P300 million has been set aside to cover the funds needed for the financial assistance.
Based on Osca’s records, the City has a total of 50,000 senior citizens, defined under the law as those 60 years old and older. (Sun.Star Cebu)