Restaurateurs struggle to keep their business afloat after the pandemic pushed the industry to a hiatus and caused a wave of global economic decline. Aside from dealing with plummeting sales and lowering revenue, businesses have also had to deal with the rampant abuse of discount privileges, particularly those of senior citizens’ and persons with disabilities’ (PWDs).

A Viber group of more than 800 restaurateurs expressed sentiments on the rising number of fake IDs of senior citizens and PWDs amid the crisis following Elbert Cuenca’s Facebook post urging customers entitled with discounts to withdraw from using them as a way to help restaurants thrive. Aside from falsifying identification to avail of discounts, foodservice leaders are also experiencing issues on the vagueness of implementing guidelines regarding such discounts.

There were also instances that when asked to present the OSCA (Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs) Purchase Booklet, a requirement as stated in Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (dubbed as the “Senior Citizen Law”), some senior citizen customers were angered.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reveals in a 2016 survey that 12 percent of the country’s population accounts for PWDs. Restaurant owner Eric Teng tells of his experience in which a table of nine family members (including children) all had PWD IDs, mostly indicating “musculoskeletal,” “visual” and “psychosocial” disabilities. He also recalls an instance where three PWD cards from the same table declare “visual impairment,” two of which even show identical ID numbers. If that was the case, Teng argues that they shouldn’t have been able to have a license to drive, let alone use their phones or read the menu.

The French Baker and Lartizan’s Johnu Koa also had an experience where a person his age (he was 54 years old at the time) had a senior citizen card and availed of a discount. There were also instances that when asked to present the OSCA (Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs) Purchase Booklet, a requirement as stated in Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (dubbed as the “Senior Citizen Law”), some senior citizen customers were angered.

While the law intends to carry the burden off of senior citizens and PWDs, business owners must also be protected because they shoulder the 20 percent discount on their tabs—which, in the current diminishing margins and resources, already means a lot.

Marites Ang of King Chef recalls a time when seniors tried to avail of the 20 percent discount despite the 33 to 50 percent off promo that was already placed in her menu. According to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9994, senior citizen discounts cannot be applied on already discounted meals or meals on promo. Ang also says that a senior once ordered six dishes good for 12 persons but insisted that the restaurant apply the discount on the bulk she ordered instead of what she just consumed. The Act clearly states that senior citizen benefits only apply to the individual share of the senior citizen and not to the whole group the discount holder is dining with. Despite this, the diner claims that she will simply consume everything and refuses to pay for the food that was already served unless the discounts apply. 

R.A. 9994 clearly states that senior citizen benefits only apply to the individual share of the senior citizen and not to the whole group the discount holder is dining with.

While the law intends to carry the burden off of senior citizens and PWDs, business owners must also be protected because they shoulder the 20 percent discount on their tabs—which, in the current diminishing margins and resources, already means a lot. This abuse will harm the industry, especially those belonging in smaller sectors. Ang Probinsyano Partylist Representative Ronnie Ong says that R.A. 10754 or An Act Expanding The Benefits and Privileges of Persons with Disability only provides few safeguards to abuse which is why he, along with ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Eric Yap, suggested that applicants undergo a “screening process” for qualification. They are urging the Department of Health and the National Commission on Disability Affairs to review old PWD cards before issuing new ones and to create an automated system for easier and faster verification of PWD IDs. The Department of Trade and Industry, through the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau, is also looking into the current issue.

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