House moves

House moves to prevent elder abuse
The House committee on population and family relations recently approved several bills which seek to prohibit and provide penalties for elder abuse in the country.
The panel approved, as amended and subject to style, House Bill Nos. 865, 2989, 4708 and 4980 authored respectively by Reps. Victor Yap (2nd District, Tarlac), Wes Gatchalian (1st District, Valenzuela City), Magnolia Rosa Antonino (4th District, Nueva Ecija) and AKO BICOL Party-list Reps. Rodel Batocabe, Alfredo Garbin Jr., and Christopher Co.
Stakeholders representing the senior citizens sector could hardly contain their joy and clapped their hands in appreciation for the approval of the bills.
Rep. Sol Aragones (3rd District, Laguna) committee chairperson, said there is a need to pass a law that will protect the physical, mental and social well-being of the elderly because of their age.
 “They are very frail and vulnerable to any ill treatment, it be physical or psychological,” said Aragones.
Aragones said four bills with the same subject matter were approved by the committee during the 15th Congress.
 “The proposal was transmitted to the committee on appropriations but was not acted upon by the said committee,” she said.
Aragones said there is no exact data on the prevalence of elder mistreatment in the country.
 “There is a great possibility that the occurrence of abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation to elderly increases as our increasing population age in years,” she said.
There are plenty of factors that can trigger intended, unintentional or unnecessary harm to the elderly, according to Aragones.
In his sponsorship speech read by Rep. Marisol Panotes (2nd District, Camarines Norte),  Yap said the main purpose of his bill is to develop strategies for preventing and punishing crimes that target or otherwise disproportionately affect seniors, by collecting appropriate data to measure the extent of crimes committed against seniors and determine the extent of domestic and elder abuse.
 “It likewise seeks to strengthen existing existing services being accorded to senior citizens by the government,” he said
Further, the measure aims to strengthen all government agencies including LGUs and government-owned and controlled corporations by establishing a mandatory senior’s desk in all offices of the government.
Yap said based on the 2010 census, senior citizens or those aged 60 years old and over, comprised 6.8 percent of the country’s total population or around seven million.
 “The number of senior citizens in proportion to our country’s population has been steadily growing. The number is expected to reach 14.3 million by the year 2040 making up around 13.8 percent of the population,” Yap said.
Yap pointed out that majority of senior citizens are living below the poverty line and have limited means of employment.
 “Further, there has been an alarming increase of incidence of elder abuse. It is important to point out that criminal activity towards the elderly is another category which is also on the rise in recent years,” he said.
Yap said the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined elder abuse as “a single repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”
“Physical, emotional or psychological, sexual, neglect or abandonment, financial exploitation – all these are the examples of a long list of elderly abuse,” he said
Yap said the country does not have a law which specifically targets elder abuse as a criminal offense because of lack of specific studies relating to crimes and abuse against senior citizens.
Batocabe, in his sponsorship remarks for the bill he authored with Garbin Jr. and Co, emphasized the fact that other marginalized sectors have their own laws that protect them.
He said there is a law against child abuse and violence against women and children,” he said.
 “And yet one of the most important sectors of our society and who are also physically, economically and politically marginalized (senior citizens) are not amply protected,” Batocabe said.
 “There is really a need to address elder abuse and it’s about time we enact a law to protect our elderly people.”
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its part expressed its strong approval for the enactment of these bills.
DSWD Undersecretary Florita Villar said while they have no objection to the contents of the different bills, they have a request to the body to consider the World Health Organizations’ definition of elder abuse.
“We would like to request from this committee to consider the definition of elder abuse as indicated by the WHO which for the technical staff and officials of the department would provide a very specific definition rather than a very broad definition which should be found in any bill,” Villar said.
Villar said WHO defines elder abuse as “an act of commission or omission to an older person (which in our case is 60 years old and above) that may be either intentional, or unintentional and this abuse may be classified into physical, sexual, psychological (emotional or verbal aggression).”
 “Another form of abuse to elder persons may be financial or those involving material  maltreatment  and will result in unnecessary suffering, injury or pain, the loss or violation of human rights and a decrease quality of life for the older persons.”
Villar likewise said the passage of the elder abuse act in the 17th Congress will be one of the Philippines’ concrete actions to support the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)’s declaration on an active productive and healthy aging which was signed last year by leaders at the ASEAN level of which the Philippines is one of the signatories.
To the query of Aragones if the agency has programs to address elder abuse, Villar said aside from the DSWD, the devolved set-up local social welfare and development offices—from the provincial down to the city and municipal offices—have programs protecting the rights of the older persons.
The chairperson also asked Villar  if the DSWD has an information dissemination program so that abused elder people know where to go and seek for help.
Villar  said the DSWD at present is pilot testing a project  called Reporting System and Prevention Program for Elder Abuse Cases (RESPPEC) in Regions 1, 6, 11 and the National Capital Region.
Marilyn Moral also of the DSWD explained RESPPEC is a community-based project which strengthens partnership and networks between and among the senior citizens sector, stakeholders and and partners to ensure holistic and efficiency delivery of services to respond to elderly abuses.
 “The objective is to establish a local reporting system or mechanism in the management of elder abuse cases. Working closely with our senior citizens sector, we have this protective service committee for senior citizens which is based in each barangay of the four pilot areas,” Moral said.
Aside from the DPWH, other resource persons and agencies who expressed their support for the approval of the bills include the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), Confederation of Older Persons Association of the Philippines (COPAP), Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines (FSCAP), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others. (30) mvip

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