The long lines of senior citizens waiting to receive their P4,000 cash aid continued yesterday at the Cebu City Hall grounds.
While there were few reports of beneficiaries fainting or being hospitalized, delays in the distribution prompted Mayor Michael Rama to order a one-week extension to make sure everyone collects his or her cash gift.
One beneficiary, 70-year-old Pablo Apalla, went straight to City Hall after being discharged from the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) yesterday morning.
He was accompanied by his daughter Jiji Alcantara, who carried his nebulizer.
“(My father) didn’t receive it last Saturday because there were problems with his senior citizens ID. and the cash ran out last Saturday,” Alcantara explained.
She said 38 of over 100 senior citizens also didn’t receive their share last week.
Apalla and other senior citizens of barangay Buhisan were among the hundreds of senior citizens who crowded the lobby of the legislative building and the fourth floor of Cebu City Hall to collect their cash gift.
The first tranche of P3,000 was distribute in July and August.
The pre-Christmas distribution completes the P7,000 annual assistance for each registered senior who number about 70,000 in Cebu City.
Elderly residents waited in line all day, staving off hunger and arthritic pain in order to receive their cash gift.
Distribution last Saturday in the barangays with the help of barangay treasurers and secretraries was supposed to make it easier for seniors to receive the amount but not everyone was reached.
Alcantara said they were told by their barangay treasurer that the treasurer’s office ran out of time in distributing the funds to the barangays.
Some CTO staff had to stay until dawn in their offices to segregate money for the barangays. Other barangays were not given the exact amount intended for their beneficiaries.
They received assurance that the rest of the amount will be sent to their barangays during the later part of Saturday.
Manuel Gomez, a 72-year-old resident of Duljo Fatima had to line up for the second time at the Cebu City Hall grounds yesterday after failing to claim his P4,000 last Saturday.
He said distribution ended at 9 p.m. last Saturday but he wasn’t able to get to the table and claim his cash gift despite spending the whole day staying in line.
Gomez, who went alone to City Hall, said he’s healthy and can endure long hours of waiting in line.
“I will sacrifice for this because it isn’t everyday that P4,000 is given to an old person like me,” he said.
Like most beneficiaries, Gomez said he will use the amount to buy medicines and reserve a part to repair his house before Christmas.
Julian Romeo Inocando, a 77-year-old resident of Talamban, said he was listed with two names.
“They saw two names in the list, a Julian Romeo Inocando and Romeo Inocando. These names I believe are mine. My Senior Citizens ID is Romeo Inocando, I have a marriage certificate with my name as Julian Romeo Inocando,” he said.
Inocando’s 74-year-old wife Brigida was in a wheelchair due to arthritis and was unable to claim her cash gift.
“We will use the cash gift for Noche Buena,” she said.
Most seniors who cannot go up and down the stairs stayed in the lobby in their chairs.
Wheelchairs are provided as well by the Basak-Pardo Emergency Response team.
Others sat on the steps of the legislative building stairs while their grandchildren and children run errands for them.
Gemma Sanchez, a 67-year-old resident of barangay Day-as, said she will use her cash gift for her family’s Christmas feast.
Virginia Sabellano, an 82-year-old resident of Barangay Zapatera, said it would have been better if the “distribution is done in barangays.” “It is easier for us that way,” she said.
A senior citizen, Nicanora Creus, complained of having lost her wallet to a pickpocket which she was at City Hall yesterday afternoon to claim her P4,00 senior citizen assistance.
Creus, wife of former city engineer Camillo Creus, said her wallet contained more than P6,000 and some important items like her bank book when she tried to get it from her bag after she received her P4,000 assistance.
She was referred to the tourist police station located at the city hall grounds for assistance.
At 10:30 a.m Rama went to the legislative building and with megaphone in hand, asked senior citizens to go to the third floor.
Rama personally carried chairs to the third floor lobby and set these up for their use.
Others were made to occupy the City Council conference room located at the far end of the third floor.
The mayor assured the senior citizens that he would raise their concerns to the Office of Senior Citizens Affais and the City Treasurer’s Office.
Rama said there’s enough money for the cash gifts.
The mayor said the problem lies in the lack of personnel to facilitate the distribution of cash aid to the senior citizens.
“If there is a shortage of funds I will check with the treasurer’s office and the budget office,” he said.
If the delays persist, Rama said the allocation of assistance will be done in the barangays instead.
He also promise to penalize those caught claiming assistance intended for a deceased senior citizen or those whose names appear twice on the senior citizens list with estafa charges.
Rama declined to elaborate on reports that his face was imprinted on the envelopes containing the cash aid that were given to senior citizens.
“My critics will also look for something against me. Let them be,” he said. /Doris C. Bongcac and Carine M. Asutilla with a report from Correspondent Edison delos Angeles