Rama: Seniors can still get cash aid without May 9 vote

MAYOR Michael Rama has assured senior citizens in Cebu City that they will still be able to receive their financial assistance even if they will not vote on May 9, 2022.During a press briefing Wednesday, May 4, 2022, Rama said the distribution of the cash assistance should not be connected with the voting during the elections.“As far as I am concerned, I have never been in favor of connecting voting to the recipients of senior citizens (cash assistance),” said Rama.Rama further said if being an active voter is a requirement, he may issue a resolution to suspend this provision due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, as the elderly are vulnerable to the virus.“We had some interventions before, bisag naa pa man nang ordinance (even if that ordinance exists), there is always suspension because of circumstances that warrant exemptions,” said Rama.The mayor added that he would “rather be in prison giving what is due to the senior citizen than having to restrict because of a law.”There are around 92,000 senior citizens in the city who are qualified to receive P12,000 annually in cash assistance from the Cebu City Government.On Tuesday, Jeffrey Ocampo, Cebu City’s Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) executive director, had said qualified recipients of the assistance should vote on May 9 since being an active voter is one of the requirements stipulated in City Ordinance 2453 for the elderly to receive their cash aid.What DOH saysA regional Department of Health official, however, said senior citizens are still encouraged to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections despite the risk of getting infected with Covid-19.“Although the senior age group is more predisposed to getting Covid, this risk is minimized somewhat with the vaccination. They can still practice their right to vote,” said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH 7), on Wednesday, five days before the Philippines holds local and national elections.“The guidelines we have encouraged our voters (regardless of age group) when adhered to, even the seniors can still get protected from getting sick during or after the election,” Loreche told SunStar Cebu.Lawyer Jerome Brillantes, acting elections supervisor of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Cebu Provincial Office, earlier assured the senior citizens, pregnant women and persons with disabilities, that they will be assisted by the electoral board or staff at their respective precincts.No shield requiredBrillantes clarified that the Comelec does not require the wearing of a face shield and presentation of Covid-19 vaccination cards regardless of whether the voter is asymptomatic or not.But should the concerned local government unit (LGU) require it, for instance, then they will implement the use of a face shield.What they certainly require is the wearing of face masks and that the voter be a registered voter in that LGU.DOH data from January to April 2022 showed that of the 35,119 Covid-19 cases in Central Visayas, 11.72 percent or 4,117 individuals were aged 61 and above.Loreche added that during this period, 660 deaths were reported due to Covid-19, of which 52.73 percent or 348 individuals belonged to this age group.Despite that, the chief pathologist noted that most comorbidities occur among those in the higher age bracket, which can explain the higher number of deaths.