The government’s social pension program (SocPen) provides significant improvements in the lives of pensioners, especially if the coverage is increased or widened.
This was emphasized by Dennis C. Destacamento, project coordinator at the Coalition of Services of the Elderly, Inc. (COSE), at a webinar recently organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
Destacamento, a discussant in the webinar, pointed out that “the benefit level of PHP 500 per month has become insignificant, and its purchasing power has eroded considering the inflation rate for the past 10 years.”
Aside from increasing the grant amount, he also suggested a monthly or quarterly provision of the payouts, noting that the “change [in] payout schedules from quarterly to semestral defeated the main purpose of the program.”
Moreover, given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on senior citizens, especially those who lost support from their families, Destacamento urged implementing agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Commission of Senior Citizens, to expedite the delivery of pensions and improve accessibility for its beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, Destacamento highlighted the tendency of the SocPen to be politicized. He also noted that “maintaining social pension for only indigent senior citizens will perpetuate corruption, favoritism, and nepotism, given [the program’s] targeting errors.”
To address this, Destacamento mentioned the importance of enhancing the program’s social accountability mechanisms.
“We [need to] strengthen the complaints and grievance mechanisms like creating a senior citizens’ help desk,” he said. The participation and engagement of the civil society in monitoring the program implementation should also be increased.
Lastly, he urged the government to explore providing a universal social pension (USP), arguing that “it will remove the targeting and exclusion errors that the current social pension program has.” ###
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