The City Council this week devoted its Question Hour to the matter of the quarterly allowance being given to senior citizens as part of the city government’s social welfare program, a policy enacted through a local ordinance. The initial concern was focused mainly on the reported delay in the release of the allowances, amounting to P1,500 quarterly, for every senior citizen enrolled in the program.

It came out during the hearing that part of the process in the granting of allowances to senior beneficiaries is that they have to be registered voters of Puerto Princesa City. During the inquiry, city officials in charge of the program justified this as a necessary procedure to establish local residency on the part of the beneficiary.

It was disturbing to observe the City Council as a body brush aside this particular revelation, opting to focus mainly on the issue of the delayed release of the allowances. This, despite the complaint against it raised by a resource person belonging to the sector – that it is among the factors that mar the implementation of the program.

There are a hundred valid and practical ways to establish local residency and identity, the most common method being the presentation of any two valid identification cards. Such is commonly required in bank transactions as a standard practice. Requiring beneficiaries of the city’s senior allowance program to establish their local residency exclusively through a voter’s id is tantamount to politicizing the program.

That the city government requires its beneficiary to be an active voter defeats the avowed purpose of such a program, which is to grant the community’s elders a small reward that they deserve after rendering their positive contribution to society. It also casts doubt on the integrity of the list of beneficiaries, that those enrolled in it had been screened based on their politics.

It is unfortunate that the City Council is not up to performing an oversight task of this nature, particularly to ensure that the program does not marginalize those senior citizens who genuinely deserve assistance.

At the least, there must be a public demand that such requirement of using voter’s registration as sole proof of residency should be done away with, and with a mea culpa from those who crafted it, to begin with.

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