Press Release
September 24, 2016

PH to hold 1st Centenarian Day but no funds in '17 budget for cash gift

The country will observe the first official National Centenarians Day two Sundays from now, on October 2, but funds for cash gifts for 100-year-old Filipinos pursuant to a new law have not been included in the 2017 budget, prompting Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto to prod both Palace and Congress to correct the oversight.

Recto authored the Filipino Centenarians Act in the Senate, which was later sponsored by Senators Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, and Chiz Escudero for floor debates. President Aquino signed it as Republic Act 10868 on June 23 - a week before leaving office.

The bill, originally penned by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, was first vetoed by Aquino until a revised version got the presidential nod on the second try.

Under Republic Act 10868, centenarians will receive a P100,000 cash gift from the government and "a personal letter of felicitation from the President."

"In short, a treasury check and birthday card from President Digong," Recto said.

But because the law was signed seven days "before the changing of the guards," the allocation for the cash gift was not included in the 2017 national budget, Recto said, stressing that "nobody is at fault here. "

Recto said the cash gift "can in fact be given this year," with funds to be sourced from the P4 billion savings of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), from completed projects.

"For as long as the transfer complies with recent Supreme Court ruling on budget augmentation, I suggest that it should be pursued," Recto said.

The money can also be taken from the Contingent Fund of the President, Recto added.

Based on the 3,553 centenarians in the database of DSWD, about P355 million for the cash gift is needed. This amount, however, did not make it to the DSWD's P129.8 billion proposed budget for 2017.

Under RA 10868, DSWD takes care of distributing the cash gift.

Recto said Congress should appropriate funds for the full implementation of the Centenarians Act in the 2017 budget.

"And when it does, it should see to it that it will use the right census figures in computing the amount required," Recto said.

He said the 3,553 cited by DSWD could just be one-fourth of the actual number of centenarians in the country.

The official 2010 Philippine population census counted 4,728 centenarians in 2010. Their number was projected to increase to 9,195 in 2013 and to 12,775 by end of 2016.

"So bigyan natin ang kayang bigyan this year, at yung balanse at yung magiging 100 years old sa 2017, isama natin sa 2017 budget," Recto said.

Recto said because they are few, honoring centenarians "will not burn a hole in the government's pocket."

"Only those born in 1916 and earlier - when the Stars and Stripes was flying over the land, there was no airport yet, when the population was 7.7 million, only 4,400 cars were running in the whole country, the total money in circulation was P51 million, and the land on which this building stands was still part of the sea - could qualify," Recto said in his speech sponsoring the measure.

"These are .00454 percent of the population who have seen all our 15 presidents, lived through two world wars, witnessed our independence, survived hundreds of typhoons, and saw the birth of radio, telephone and television," he said.

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