Davao City First District Rep. Paolo Duterte on Wednesday urged his House Representatives colleagues to immediately pass a bill ensuring the protection of every senior citizen from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and coercion.

Under House Bill (HB) 4696 or the Anti-Elderly Abuse Act, Duterte and co-authors Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Edvic Yap sought the establishment of senior citizen help desks in every barangay to provide immediate assistance to victim-survivors of elder abuse.

If enacted, HB 4696 would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to set up special prosecution units to exclusively handle cases of violence against senior citizens.

“Elderly citizens, like our lolos (grandfathers) and lolas (grandmothers), should be honored, cared for and respected. Unfortunately, many of our senior citizens still suffer abuse and most of the time, even from the very people who are supposed to care for them, as shown by news reports and reliable posts in social media. Worse, many cases of elder abuse go unreported and unpunished. Our bill aims to prevent these,” Duterte said.

Acts of violence against senior citizens include “physical abuse or infliction of pain or injury with the use of physical force resulting in bodily injury, physical harm, pain or impairment, suffering or distress; and psychological, mental or emotional abuse causing mental or emotional suffering or distress, according to the bill.

Material exploitation through illegal or improper use of funds or resources of the senior citizen, and economic or financial abuse through acts that make the senior citizen financially dependent are also classified as acts of violence against the elderly, it added.

The bill also provides that abandonment or desertion by a person who has custody or has assumed responsibility of caring for a senior citizen is also an act of violence.

“Elder abuse does not only cover the intentional act, but also the failure to act on the needs of the elderly,” Duterte said.

The minimum punishment under the bill is arresto mayor or from one month and one day to six months imprisonment for acts of violence against the elderly resulting in slight physical injuries.

For serious physical injuries, the bill provides the punishment is prision mayor or from six months and one day to six years imprisonment. Less physical injuries are punishable by prision correccional (six months and one day to six years).

However, acts of violence against the elderly constituting attempted, frustrated or consummated parricide, murder, or homicide, and those resulting in mutilation “shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, it added.

All other acts of violence against the elderly are punishable by prision correccional and a fine of not less than PHP100,000 but not more than PHP300,000.

The measure also requires persons found guilty of any act of violence against the elderly to undergo mandatory psychological counseling or psychiatric treatment, and shall report their compliance to the court. A hold departure order shall also be issued against respondents.

Law enforcers, barangay officials and persons who fail to report acts of violence against the elderly shall also be penalized under the bill.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall be mandated to provide senior citizens who are victims of abuse safe shelter; counseling, healing and recovery and rehabilitation services; and other programs to ensure their personal security and safety. The Department of Health shall also provide medical aid to the victims.

As also provided, victims of elder abuse may file protection orders against their offenders. (PNA)