During the Senate plenary session on the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) 2024 budget on Thursday, November 16, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go raised critical questions and issues regarding the implementation of increased pensions for indigent senior citizens.
Go is one of the co-authors of Republic Act 11916, which effectively doubled the monthly pension allowance for qualified indigent senior citizens from P500 to P1,000. He expressed his concern about the implementation of these benefits.
“Sa kasalukuyan ilan ang nabibigyan ng social pension ng DSWD? Since nadoble na po ang pension at nadoble na rin ang inyong budget para dito, sapat na ba ang pondo ng DSWD para ma-cater sa ating mga indigent senior citizen sa susunod na taon?,” asked Go, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, to Senator Imee Marcos who sponsored the budget of the DSWD in the Senate Plenary.
In response, Marcos acknowledged the budget increase to nearly P50 billion for 2024 but also highlighted the existing backlog in pension payments and the increase in the number of seniors waiting for their pensions.
Go then raised a crucial issue regarding the increasing number of senior citizens waiting for their social pension. He inquired, “Hindi ba nadagdagan ang bilang nila? Ilan sa kanila ang nasa waiting list?”
Marcos acknowledged the growing backlog, confirming that the waiting list for social pensions has expanded significantly. She responded to Go’s query, revealing the staggering numbers, “Yes, maraming wait list diyan sigurado. Kaya aabot ng P5 billion ang backlog.”
Marcos added, “yung wait listed… dating 228,000 ang wait listed, ngayon 466,000 na ang wait listed. Lumulubo nga eh, dumarami as time passes by.”
Go, concerned about DSWD’s financial capacity to handle this escalating number of waitlisted senior citizens who may qualify for social pension for indigents, asked, “Kaya pa po ng pondo sa ngayon?”
Marcos admitted, “Hindi. Hindi kaya, may utang talaga tayo.”
In an attempt to address the funding shortfall, Marcos discussed a temporary measure by allocating P3 billion to unprogrammed funds. However, she noted the inherent uncertainty and potential delays in accessing these unprogrammed funds which are dependent on availability of funds and government collections or revenues.
In his remarks, Go emphasized his support for DSWD. He stated, “Again, full support naman po tayo sa ating DSWD. Noon pa man po isa po ito sa aking talagang mahal na departamento.”
He also reminded the DSWD of their crucial role, saying, “I remind the DSWD that they stand as a beacon of hope for countless Filipinos, providing a lifeline for those facing adversity, poverty, and various life challenges.”
Go also reiterated his call for non-selective assistance: “Sana po huwag natin silang talikuran at huwag po natin silang pabayaan, ‘yung mga kababayan nating mahihirap. ‘Yung mga hopeless, helpless nating kababayan na umaasa po sa ating gobyerno.”
“Huwag po natin dapat piliin ang pagtulong, huwag sana po kayong maging selective sa pagtulong. Pera po ng taumbayan ‘yan, huwag po nating ipagkait sa kanila, ibalik po natin sa kanila sa pamamagitan po ng maayos na serbisyo,” concluded Go.
Go has also co-authored Senate Bill No. 2028, aiming to provide additional support to seniors aged 80 and 90, amending the Centenarian Act of 2016. This bill reflects Go’s belief in the cultural significance of caring for the elderly, as he remarked, “Nasa kultura na nating mga Pilipino na alagaan ang ating mga nakakatanda.”