Elderly hit hard by quarantine rules

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    ‘It is good that the CHR is starting to recognize the situation of seniors as a social problem which should also be attended to by the government.’

    THERE have been many sectors of the economy that suffered hard in the wake of the government-issued quarantine policy to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, such as jeepney, taxi and UV Express drivers, school bus drivers, small vendors, barbers, manicurists, workers in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industries, etc. Among the age groups, the most marginalized are the senior citizens, those who are 60 and above.

    These elderly citizens, many of whom are still strong and productive, with stable jobs and principal provider for their extended families, were arbitrarily told to stay home due to the coronavirus. As a result, they lost their jobs and their incomes, and being gainfully employed before the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) scornfully removed them from the list of Social Amelioration Program, or SAP.

    The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the senior citizens’ plight has gone unnoticed, and that elder abuse has become an “invisible issue” in the Philippines. The CHR showed its concern as the world observed the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit, focal commissioner on Aging and the Human Rights of Older Persons, said people should care for the elderly more at this time, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined “elder abuse” as a single or repeated act, or even lack of appropriate action, that occurs within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

    Dumpit explained that this type of violence “constitutes a violation of the human rights of older people. It includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.” It seems our very own Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), speaking through Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, has offended many seniors even as the DTI has allowed sparse dine-in customers inside restaurants.

    Castelo said: “Seniors will be allowed (to dine), but are highly discouraged.” Sadly, the government lacks hard data to document abuse and discrimination of its elderly citizens. In a 2004 study in urban poor communities, around 40 percent of older people admitted that they personally experienced abuse ranging from physical and verbal abuse, ridicule and discrimination, and negligence. It is good that the CHR is starting to recognize the situation of seniors as a social problem which should also be attended to by the government.

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