By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor

After a number of senior citizens raised protests over the new rules governing the enhanced quarantine that took effect on May 1, Malacañang was forced to revise its stand last week.

Call it senior people power.

The new rules would have prevented seniors aged 60 and above from going out of their homes for any reason. Also covered were young people between 18 and 20.

Among the first to take the cudgels for the senior community was the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), the country’s largest employers’ organization.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis, ECOP president, said enforcing the new directive would result in countless employees losing their jobs.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said it would be unfair to stop senior citizens like himself and many other legislators from performing their jobs due to their age.

He said there should be no ban on seniors “who are physically fit to work and move around.”

For his part, Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo said preventing seniors from going out of their places of residence is “inhumane at worst, or ill-thought of, at the least.”

Various lawyers pointed out that the ban on seniors was intended to protect them and not because they could infect the general public. As such, the ban cannot be enforced without the consent of the senior.

As Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez said in reaction to the ECOP and lawmakers’ statements, “The Inter-Agency Task Force on Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is not insisting seniors would be under house arrest.”

He added that seniors who remain gainfully employed or who run their own businesses will be allowed to go out of their homes. The government will be issuing new IDs for such senior citizens, Lopez said.

Further, seniors leaving their houses in order to buy food, undergo medical check-ups and procure medicines will be allowed to do so.

The majority of the Philippines’ top 1,000 corporations is headed by presidents and CEOs who are senior citizens, while some 80 percent of the president’s Cabinet are aged 60 and above, including the president himself, who is 74. The same is true for the justices of the Supreme Court, as well as members of the Senate.

In social media, senior citizens raised the loudest howls, posting such comments as “60 is the new 40,” “Studies show that a person is most productive between the ages of 60 and 70, the second most productive is between 70 and 80, and the third most productive is between 50 and 60,” and “I didn’t reach this age (60) because I’m stupid.”

The government’s Luzon and Metro Manila-wide lockdown expired at the end of April but was extended to May 15. Thereafter, the economy will be re-opened gradually, industry by industry.

The IATF proposed a stricter ban on seniors during the duration of the extension, ostensibly because they are at higher risk for COVID-19 infection, especially those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.

The ban was based on guidelines provided by the Department of Health.

But 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Enrico Pineda said that the number of COVID-19 victims in the 50 to 59 age group was hardly any different from the 60 to 69 age group, at 24 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Equally surprising, Filipinos in the 70 to 79 age bracket only represented 14 percent of all reported cases of the virus.

It was due to the mounting complaints as well as the valid reasons brought to its attention that the IATF decided to ease the restrictions on senior citizens.

In the US as well as in many countries throughout the world, age discrimination is banned. Not so in the Philippines.

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