As seniors’ discount on vitamins takes effect, Macalintal blames DOH for depriving elderlies of benefits
MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer has blamed the Department of Health (DOH) for depriving senior citizens of discount benefits over vitamins and supplements for almost a decade, a day before the amendments on the said issue take effect.
Lawyer and senior citizens (SCs) rights advocate Romulo Macalintal said on Tuesday that DOH committed an error when they did not provide clear guidelines on whether vitamins and supplements should be included in the list of products discounted for the elderly — despite a law already stating it.
According to Macalintal, the discounts should have been implemented since June 2010 — and not on Wednesday, June 10 — or during the time the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 was crafted.
“Actually, it should have been given to the SCs as early as June 2010 when the IRR of RA 9994, the law on SCs was promulgated but the DOH erred when the said matter was not clearly clarified,” Macalintal said in a statement.
“In a word, for almost 10 years the SCs were deprived of this benefit. Thus in the said amendatory AO (administrative order), the DOH admitted its glaring error when in its earlier AO it did not include such benefit,” he added.
Macalintal, who ran during the 2016 Senatorial elections on a platform based on senior citizens’ welfare, was referring to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s amendment of Administrative Order 2012-007-A.
While the order was not crafted under Duque’s term — he started his second stint at DOH last 2016 — he admitted that there were no guidelines in the purchase of vitamins and supplements even if R.A. 9994 clearly mandates such benefits.
Instead, what transpired for so many years was the refusal of some drug stores to give 20 percent discounts on these products, even if the seniors’ doctors have assigned it as part of their diet.
“This amendment is, hence, being issued to clarify that the purchase of vitamins and minerals supplements of senior citizens is likewise subject to the 20% Discount and VAT exemption subject to conditions prescribed under RA No. 9994 and its IRR,” Duque wrote on the order.
Macalintal said that he hopes DOH has already informed drug stores about the changes in policy, to help seniors especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On behalf of the elderly or senior citizens I hope that the DOH had already taken the proper steps and initiatives to inform all drug companies and establishments selling vitamins and mineral supplements of this new benefit of the SCs,” he noted.
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