The number of indigent senior citizens who received their social pension in the calendar year 2018 has increased by 1.81%, serving a total of 130, 796 beneficiaries as compared to 128, 466 in 2017.  

A total of P784, 776, 000 has been disbursed by the Department of SocialWelfare and Development (DSWD) – Caraga through the Social Pension Program to the member elderly persons in the five provinces of the region.  

OIC Regional Director Mita Chuchi Gupana – Lim said that this increase in the number of target beneficiaries served only highlights the Department’s dedication in accommodating more “poor and vulnerable” senior citizens to the program.  

“Senior citizens are an important engine in the society and should not be seen as a dependent burden to anyone else,” Lim said, adding that “DSWD, as the lead agency in social protection and poverty alleviation, lingers to reinforce its commitment towards promoting the welfare of senior citizens.”  

Lim also stressed that from 9, 375 beneficiaries when the program started in the region in 2011, it can be seen that the social pension program for “abandoned, neglected, frail, sickly, and poor” elderly persons continues to expand and give them comfort and advantage.  

“Social Pension program aims to reinforce the goal of the Department to protect and promote the rights of the vulnerable senior citizens in attaining a more decent and quality life,” Lim said.  

Sarah Rose Salingay, focal person for social pension, said that “in ensuring the delivery of quality service to the 130, 796 beneficiaries, a clearly defined mode of payment, validation strategy, grievance mechanism and data banking are installed; all for safeguarding a government resource.”  

Salingay also shared that one recurring issue in the implementation of the program is the concern of having a master list of SSS pensioners for the implementers’ reference in  determining the eligibility status of the senior citizens.  

“Validation activities both by the local government and units and the DSWD field office could not be perfectly done without the said document, hence inclusion and exclusion errors exist. However, efforts do not stop there, instead, the grievance mechanism was intensified to address the increasing complaints of individuals and other concern citizens,” she clarified.  

Both Lim and Salingay said that the Department wanted to ascertain that the benefits delivered are given to the deserving social pensioners.   With this, the DSWD-Caraga officially informed all LGUs to have a revalidation of all existing beneficiaries based on the eligibility criteria and had it notarized to ensure the veracity and authenticity of information reflected in the validation report.        

“The said strategy is helpful in ensuring that the beneficiaries endorsed by the LGU are really eligible to avail the program as a number of senior citizens were non-eligible and were recommended for delisting due to having pensions from SSS and are financially stable,” Salingay said, adding that “replacements of beneficiaries have already been made considering those who are on the waiting list.”  

As stated by Republic Act 9994, the beneficiaries for the social pension must be: (1) frail, sickly or with disability; (2) receive no pension from GSIS, SSS, AFPMBAI and other insurance companies; and (3) do not have permanent source of income or regular support from relatives.  

One of the highlights for the social pension program in the previous calendar year is the institutionalization of regional standing agreement with LGUS that if beneficiaries failed to claim their stipend for two consecutive quarters despite the door to door delivery, said beneficiaries will be delisted.  

However, Salingay clarified that “they will be reactivated in the list once the LGU notifies the field office.”  

Lim attributes the success of the implementation of the program in the region to the responsive LGU partners and stakeholders and the proactive staff in crafting the Monitoring and Evaluation tool as basis for determining the eligibility status of the beneficiaries.  

“The continuous commitment of DSWD to protect the rights of the poor and vulnerable sector in the region provided an opportunity to set in place the necessary and responsive programs and services for the said sector,” Lim stressed. ### (MIKE ARIEL P. PLAZA/Social Marketing Section/DSWD Field Office Caraga)