Senior citizens told: No vote, no cash aid

AROUND 92,000 senior citizens in Cebu City will be required to vote this May 9, 2022, for them to still qualify for the financial assistance given by the City Government.Jeffrey Ocampo, Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) executive director, told SunStar Cebu Tuesday, May 3, that a senior citizen must be a registered and active voter to be able to receive the cash aid.A qualified senior citizen can receive the amount of P12,000 per year, said Ocampo.Ocampo added that qualified recipients of the assistance should vote this coming election since it is one of the requirements stipulated in the City Ordinance 2453.“We have to abide by this since it is stipulated in the ordinance. Mao na ang atoang na andan so we have to follow,” said Ocampo.Ocampo further said he has not received any appeal from his fellow elderly to forgo this requirement considering the present threat of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.Seeking interventionIn a separate interview, however, Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the Emergency Operations Center, told SunStar Cebu that he will talk with Mayor Michael Rama about the possibility of forgoing the “active voter” requirement.Garganera said this is for the safety of senior citizens who are vulnerable to the virus.Since this provision is stated in an ordinance and the City Council is on recess until election day, Garganera said he will ask Rama to release an executive intervention about the matter.Garganera said he will talk with the other city councilors to discuss the possible amendments that can be made to the existing ordinance once their session will resume.Garganera added that he will also appeal to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to prioritize the senior citizens on election day.The councilor said the elderly should be catered to first, especially in the early hours from 6 to 9 a.m. of May 9.Masks should also be worn all the time and the elderly should always bring drinking water, said Garganera.“Family members should assist these elderly for the entire duration of the voting. They are vulnerable, but they can cast their ballots safely by complying with the basic health protocols,” Garganera added.Garganera acknowledged that this election is challenging because of the pandemic as his 88-year-old mother will also cast her vote.Meanwhile, Ocampo said the distribution of the cash assistance to qualified senior citizens was not hampered by the election ban that started last March 25.Mandaue CityIn Mandaue City, senior citizens are entitled to receive a total of P8,000 in financial assistance per year from the Mandaue City Government, given to them in two tranches—in May and December.The requirements for receiving such assistance are that the senior citizen must be a resident of Mandaue City and have a voter’s registration record (VRR).In the VRR, senior voters must have voted at least twice to be eligible for the cash assistance.Interviewed Monday, Mandaue City’s Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) head Diosdado Suico said the city’s senior citizens will exercise their right to vote in polling precincts this May 9 despite the prevailing threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.He said the Comelec plans to allocate special polling precincts for seniors to ensure their health safety.Suico said the Comelec has called all senior citizen heads in the country for a meeting with regard to putting a special polling precinct designed to separate seniors from the regular voters this May 9. But this is still subject to confirmation.The Department of Health has tagged senior citizens as one of the vulnerable sectors who are susceptible to acquiring the deadly virus.If the Comelec suspends on-site voting for senior citizens on May 9, considering the threat of the pandemic, Suico said they would abide by the law but would do what they could to fight for their right to vote.“If the government decides, then we could not do anything about it. However, I would personally stand for my right as a senior citizen and one of the representatives of this sector. This is our right to suffrage, and the pandemic could not stop it,” said Suico.However, Suico said those senior citizens unable to vote on May 9 will still get their financial assistance.“Bisan kon dili maka botar (sa May 9), basta na validate, ug ngalan naa sa masterlist ug sa payroll, makadawat ug financial assistance,” Suico said. (Even if they don’t vote this May 9, for as long as their names have been validated and are in the masterlist and the payroll, then they can receive their financial assistance.)Mandaue City had about 24,000 total senior individuals as of April 2022, all of whom he said are registered voters. (IRT, HIC)