Thursday, April 8, 2010



April 7, 2010

United Opposition (UNO) vice presidential candidate Jejomar C. Binay today slammed Malacanang for dragging its feet on the new Senior Citizens’ Benefits Law exempting the elderly from the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT), saying it took the Palace almost two months to publish the law.
And Binay sees more delays ahead because of provisions that require “a virtual convention of several government agencies and non-governmental organizations” to draft thw Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) and the persistent opposition of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to the measure.
Although Republic Act 9994 was signed by Mrs. Arroyo last Feb. 15 , it was only on April 7, that its full text saw print in national newspapers, Binay said.
“It took the Palace 50 days to deliver a document to newspaper offices which are less than five kilometers from it. Even a senior citizen on crutches could have done it in one day, “ Binay said.
“That the document traveled at a speed of one kilometer per 10 days is proof of Malacanang’s continuing official disdain for the bill,” Binay said, recalling that it took public opinion and the threat of daily protests from irate senior citizens to budge Mrs. Arroyo from her original position to veto the law.
Because the publication is one of the two triggers – the other being the promulgation of the implementing rules – for the law to take effect , its implementation is now also delayed , Binay said.
“That’s the domino effect of Malacanang’s indifference . It can arrange all the travel documents that will bring the President and her junketeers to many countries in a jiffy but it can’t dispatch a messenger that will hand carry an important law to its publication, “ he said.
But even if RA 9994 had been published , thus complying with Section 13 of the said law, it will still not automatically take effect, Binay explained , “as there is still the business of drafting its implementing rules and regulations , or IRR.” And it seems that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), is not in a hurry to draft the IRR because of its opposition the EVAT exemption from seniors, a position it still maintains until this day.
Under Section 9 of RA 9994, “ a virtual convention of 14 agencies plus five NGOs must draft the IRR within 60 days from April 7, the publication date which becomes the law’s date of effectivity,” Binay said
Despite that mandatory deadline , it is still no guarantee that the IRR will be promulgated within that period , Binay said, citing many previous instances.
“If there is no consensus among the agencies that will draft the IRR , or if, for example, one agency would refuse to endorse the IRR, then the law will hang in suspended animation , “Binay said .
“If the DoF (Department of Finance), which has been against this law , would say that it won’t sign on with the IRR, then that law remains frozen, “ he added .
But the reporting out the IRR is just one in the long line of hurdles that the law must clear before the country’s five million seniors can benefit from it , Binay explained .
“There is the question of funding for the P500 monthly stipend for indigent seniors. There is no appropriation for that in the 2010 national budget. It doesn’t say in RA 9994 how the fund augmentation or transfers will be made . If you read the law it doesn’t state there that augmentation of the DSWD budget, to accommodate the funding need, will be automatic, “ he said.
Binay was referring to a provision in the expanded senior citizens’ benefits law that indigent seniors will receive a stipend of P500 month , to be administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
According to Binay, the identification of these seniors, where they live, is one of the “administrative matters” that will delay the delivery to senior citizens of benefits promised them in RA 9994.
Another barrier, he said, might l be posed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, “which is not among the named 14 agencies to the IRR panel, but which must be instructed by the DoF to come up with its own revenue order . “
The BIR revenue order is crucial because “at the core of the law is the exemption of senior citizens from paying VAT on certain goods and services,” Binay said.
Aside from the DOF and the DSWD, other agencies in the IRR panel are the DOH, DOT, HUDCC, DOLE, DOJ, DILG, DTI, DOTC, NEDA, TESDA, CHED and DepED.

I may be dead before this gets implemented! Why does TESDA need to get involved?

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