A finance undersecretary revealed the government’s devilish plan to lift the tax exemption benefits enjoyed by Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities. The cancellation of such benefits will give the government additional income of 3 billion pesos.

According to Republic Act No. 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, Senior Citizens are given the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount and exemption from the value –added tax (VAT). Meanwhile, Republic Act No. 10754, or the act expanding the benefits and privileges of persons with disability (PWD) which was passed into law last March 2016, also provides the same (20%) exemption to specified products and services.

It is both bewildering and stomach-churning knowing that the platform of the Duterte administration during its campaign is based on compassion, especially for those who have less in life. Lifting the tax benefits is like sentencing the 7.5 million elderly and 700,000 PWDs to their most painful death. This is more alarming and disheartening than the so called “extrajudicial killings”.

The Finance Department should know any better, that this “heartless” act only on the basis of flawed generalizations will cause irreversible damage to the society. For example, many elderly and PWDs will not be able to afford life-saving medicine, they will not be able to have their subsidized medical check-up because the professional fees will start to balloon, dental and laboratory tests will soon become part of sad history, our lolas, lolos and PWDs will walk along EDSA because of fare increase— saving every peso for more immediate needs. And because of this ludicrous measure, many will be buried in an open pit, with old bodies wrapped in a banig or manila paper, because of expensive burial costs.

Article XIII, Section 11 of the Constitution provides that the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. There shall be priority for the needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women and children.

Knowing all of this urges me to question the existence of the human heart. In our constant pursuit for progress and prosperity, we failed to see and to value the essentials in our society, we become relentless, unreasonable. It is inhumane, a thought only a devil can conceive, to revoke the constitutionally protected rights and privileges of the elderly and PWDs. This only echoes two things, either President Duterte hired the wrong persons in his cabinet, or this is the starting manifestation of the crooked values and policies of this administration.

As a Filipino who values and recognizes the rights and privileges of our Senior Citizens and PWDs as equal members of our society, I strongly express my contention, using the strongest possible terms and expression that this policy is unearthly, unforgiving and barbaric. This needs to be studied with both our heads and hearts on the table.

-MUTYA

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