Where’s My Senior Discount, Dammit?

This article was originally published in 2010, at the time the present administration took office.  The revised rules for use of the Senior Citizen Card were one of the earliest pieces of legislation enacted by President Aquino.  The abuse and misuse of the Senior Citizen program might 9or might not) be an item of interest in the current administration.  This article is just a word to the wise.

This article will not be of interest to some of my younger readers.  No problem, feel free to flit elsewhere, I bear no grudge.

But almost all of us are in one of two groups.  Those who have already reached the “golden years” (like me) or those who hope to live long enough to be included … so perhaps this is of more general interest than you first thought it was.

Many also reading may have Filipino relatives age 60 or older, and you may find that some of what I write about here is very directly applicable.

I tend to write too long and too dense on these sorts of articles, and when I make a lot of quotes and reference links, few people follow them … so I won’t take up your time.  Just the facts, ma’am, as Sgt Friday used to say.

Is There a Viable Senior Citizen Discount Program in the Philippines?

You bet.  Among other benefits it covers:

  • Purchase of medicines, including influenza and pneumococcal vaccines and other essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment; and
  • Actual fare for land travel in public utility jeepneys, taxis, Asian utility vehicles and shuttle services.

Moreover, additional incentives and benefits are also granted to senior citizens, as follows:

  • Free vaccination against influenza and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizens;
  • Benefit assistance to the nearest kin of a deceased indigent senior citizen worth P2,000.
  • Five percent (5%) discount on water and electric bills registered in the name of the senior citizen, provided that consumption is below 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 30 cubic meters of water a month; as well as
  • Additional government assistance, i.e., social pension/monthly stipend of P500, mandatory Philhealth coverage, and social safety assistance (food, medicines and financial assistance).

What Philippine Law Covers These Senior Citizen Benefits?

RA (Republic Act) 9994, know as The Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010

Who is covered by this act?

Residents of the Philippines who are citizens of the Philippines who have attained the age of 60 years.

You can look the exact legal language up for yourself.  I write the sentence above in a slightly different fashion that the original act to point out something important.

Only Philippine Citizens may legally use the discounts and other benefits covered by RA 9994. 

I get questions more often than you might think regarding this question, and I see it discussed, sometimes Ad nauseam, in groups and forums of interest to foreigners living in the Philippines.

(oh, and by the way, if you are a former Filipino (as in living here under a 13(g) permanent visa, you are not a Filipino citizen for the purposes of this law, so the law does not cover you either.) 

The language was written the way it is for a specific purpose … to distinctly define who is eligible … and there are a number of my foreigner friends, for example, who have long believed they were entitled to the senior discount privileges … and even some who already avail of them … but the new law is pretty specific.  Only Philippine Citizens are covered.

Now that I have made myself undyingly (un)popular with the foreigner community, let me mention a little about how some of the confusion regarding this law, and its predecessors has come to pass:

How It Used To Be:

senior_cardIn the early 90’s, the first law on senior citizens, RA 7432, was enacted to maximize the contribution of senior citizens to nation building and to grant them benefits and special privileges.

Among others, this law granted the senior citizens a 20% discount on purchases of essential goods and services.  

Many of the official/semi-official writings I have seen on this law seem to be confusing about its applicability to permanent residents, as well as Philippine citizens … but the law itself says, specifically, that the Senior Citizen discount privileges and accompanying identification documentation is for Filipino Citizens only.

Subsequently in 2003, RA 7432 was amended by RA 9257, otherwise known as the "Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003," which granted additional benefits and privileges to senior citizens.

There are also specific procedures in RA 9257 that allow government officials, such as barangay captains, to grant the issuance of the Senior Citizen ID to others, including foreigners, if they make specific and documented contributions to their local community.

Beware! The New Law is DIFFERENT!

However, if you bother to read it, you’ll note that there is no such provision in the most current law, RA 9994 … so no citizenship, no ID … seems to be the clear intent.

With every Philippine law comes what some would consider the “fine print”.  The IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations).  I believe there may yet be changes in the IRR for RA 9994, but here is a link to them as they are currently published.



Especially for those of you who are already warming up your keyboard to tell me how I am ‘all wet” on this, and how you already have your own Senior Citizen card, or how your Former Filipino wife has hers, or how Larry down at the VFW told you different, and Larry certainly knows what he is talking about … save your breath.

It’s All Up To You

What you do is up to you.  I wish you the joy of it.  But here, although, as you know, I am not a legal practitioner, I try to base my advice on facts, not “bar talk” or what you read in this forum or that forum.

I give you the exact copies of the law as I can find them published.

Tell Larry, or whomever else wants to argue, that the should, in particular, read Article 24, Sections 3 and Sections 4 of the referenced IRR.

… use of the Senior Citizen privilege by a person not entitled to use the privilege is punishable by a fine of not less than P50,000 and (If I were a lawyer, I would tell you why they chose the word ‘and” here and not the word “or” … but in layman’s terms, it likely means you are going to jail) a prison  sentence of not less than six months. …

Now as you well know, I am not an attorney, but the
words above seem pretty clear to me, even with no law degree or bar exam.  Anyone out there care to offer an alternative explanation?

Get a Bucket of Chicken, Get Six Months in Jail:

Isn’t that how the old Kentucky Fried jingle used to sound?  Something like that, anyway….

Sounds like a pretty stiff penalty, to me, to try to save 20% on the purchase of a bucket of chicken.

In Addition to Jail:

However, as you’ve no doubt heard Ron Popeil (you don’t know Ron?  Google is your friend) say, “But wait, there’s more!”  The jail time and fines are in Section 3.  Section 4 is short and sweet, and applies to most of us reading this:

“If the offender is an alien or a foreigner, he/she shall be deported immediately  after service of sentence without further deportation proceedings”

Some Backup Information:

Just after the initial publication today, I ran across an official letter sent by the director of  a large organization (with many foreigner members) here in the Philippines.  Here’s a key excerpt from the official reply:

Here’s an excerpt from a March, 2011 letter from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the government agency who actually "owns" the Senior Citizen Discount program, in response to a letter from an executive here in the Philippines explicitly asking for an opinion on foreigners and balikbayans using the program. I think it reads pretty clear.

image

Can you interpret that in any way to indicate there is a legal way for foreigners, or even non-resident Filipinos to avail of these discounts?  I can’t.

So, now you know. 

As a foreigner, or former Filipino you can not avail of the Senior Citizen Discount Program in the Philippines. 

If for some reason you have a card already and you are not a Philippine Citizen?  Well, that, of course, is up to you … those 20% discounts that you are getting (at the benefit of the poor people of the Philippines, I might add … nothing comes for free in this world) may seem worth it to you.  

But if I had a card, as a foreigner, I’d burn it … I can’t see how the promise of an occasional discount can be worth the very real risk of a substantial fine, a mandatory jail sentence and then mandatory deportation.

However, this is the Internet, so YMMV … but you can’t say Dave didn’t warn you.


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Comments

  1. John Miele says

    Dave: This is an excellent program that the government put into place here: Really beneficial to the elderly and poor. It really shows how the culture respects age.

    To the foreigners “availing” themselves of this “privelege”… SHAME ON YOU! If you were ignorant before reading this, then Stop! The program was started to help the truly needy… No some foreign Bozo who cries poverty, yet has a monthly pension 10X the amount of the local income average.

  2. says

    Thanks for adding the paragraph I should have, John. I think some people think this is something free that they might as well take advantage of … but every senior discount comes out of some business or personal pocket … and, like you, I am ofter appalled at the live here, bragging out one side of their mouths about “how much we spend” to support the Philippines,and then scheming to cheat somebody’s penniless lola out of her discount privilege.

    The Philippine certainly collects more than it’s chair of “cheap livers”, that’s for sure. One of the reason I don’t live in Florida, for example, is all the “gray panthers”, often with more money in the bank than they know what to do with, who make a full-time game out of demanding “Senior Discounts”. The whole “entitlement mania” just makes me sick.

    What the Philippines (and the US) really ought to have is a “young family” discount. When I was raising two kids on an enlisted man’s pay, I could have used discounts for eating out, going to Disney world (my kids never got to go until they were nearly grown.” People doing their best to raise their children right are the ones who deserve a discount in my book.

  3. says

    Agree wholeheartedly with your post and your observations, and appreciate the fact that you went to the law, rather than relying merely on someone’s opinion. I’ve seen a situation in the past where even a local attorney gave a client (foreigner) advice on how to circumvent estate tax laws, rather than to mitigate the impact while complying with them.

    • says

      @Randy B. (ID 5169): Hi Randy, thanks for dropping by and for contributing to the community here. Indeed, half (or more) of the problems I see expats (and Filipinos, for that matter) having legal problems here is the desire to ‘cheat’ or find a ‘loophole’. The scheme backfires and then .. “Oh my, what do it do now”?

      I’d love to have a Senior Citizen Discount card. I’d also love to not pay taxes and even to have hair ;-). The problem is … evading the law _usually_ has legal consequences, but then, if the law doesn’t happen to catch you, your conscience always will. We’re all going to be judged someday, and frankly, I have plenty to account for, I don’t need an additional item explaining why I cheated on the price of a bucket of chicken ;-) (Yeah, I know, conscience, morals, all that stuff is so ‘old’ in some people’s mind. Well, they aren’t to me … that’s just the way I was built.)

      Why don’t you write and tell us more about your expat services? Maybe a story or two about people getting in trouble trying to circumvent Philippine law. I only know of one other expat tax service available here in the Philippines … we can always use more I think …

  4. Gary says

    I met a guy at BI wanting a ECC. He wanted to go back to the United States for a needed operation. It seems he FORGOT to renew his tourist visa… he forgot a lot. Now it is going to cost him 40,000 pesos. That is a lot of forgetting. I forgot to say he was sitting outside, he forgot to wear long pants and they would not let him inside. Hahaha…

  5. says

    That is something that always got on my nerves. People with lots of money worrying about a 10% discount when some people can barely even afford to eat. It’s more so here in the Philippines the number of people that have a hard time getting enough food to eat. I am not yet old enough to receive a senior citizen discount, but I know that when I am (if I am), while living in the Philippines, I will not press it because I know that my measly little amount of income is at least double what the average worker makes here from working 10-12 hours days, 7 days per week. No, no complaints from this white boy.

  6. donna west says

    good to know. when I get to the Phils I will know better if someone advises me to get a senior discount card or try for discounts.

  7. Nicholas Hook says

    Thanks for posting this information. My in-laws who have come over from Australia for a couple of months holiday will hopefully be sobered to find out they are not entitled to the senior card even though they were born here. I have already told them how could they possibly be entitled, both legally and honestly, or even ethically? However, they are falling over themselves today getting photocopies of documents etc for their applications, looking forward to a 20% discount on “everything” haha. Such avarice precedeth a big fall…..(I hope)

    • Philly says

      @ Nicholas Hook

      Thanks for contributing. The fact about these discount schemes, in all countries, seems to be the people who need the discounts the least are the ones most greedy for them. It’s one of the reasons I’m growing old here in the Philippines instead of my native USA. People my age in the USA are often very poor company, nothing to talk about except how to get this discount or that discount and how much things cost nowadays instead of 50 years ago. Depressing.

      Tell your in-laws they aren’t really getting a 20% discount on “everything”, even if they find a legal way to avail. Take, say, restaurants. The discount is 20% for seniors, but ONLY what the senior consumes .. . everything else on the bill is regular price.

      Or groceries. The 20% only applies to specific basic food items and only on the first P500.

      In a hospital, only on certain items and only on the daily rate for a ward, no discount on semi-private or private rooms, etc.

      Oh and it doesn’t apply to items like air fare, or Mercedes and such. 20% on Jeepney’s and Buses, not on limousines ;-)

      So tell them they are not missing as much as they think.

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  1. [...] those of you who haven’t yet done so should read my article on the possibility of going to jail over a bucket of chicken. …Only Philippine Citizens may legally use the discounts and other benefits covered by RA [...]

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