Acknowledging their burden

Daily struggles can be a burden, especially for those who can barely make it through each day. As a child, I would always know when my mother—a single parent—felt like she had too much on her plate, even though I had no idea what it was like to be a parent.

There are single parents blessed to have enough resources to provide for their families without having to deal with the stigma surrounding their situation—that families can only function when both the father and mother are present and able. However, this is not the case for all families headed by single parents. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that in 2015, there were 3,000,000 single parents on record, two-thirds of them women.

Back in 2000, Republic Act (RA) 8972 or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act was passed to provide benefits and support for single parents. This should have been a great step forward in addressing their needs, yet after almost two decades since its enactment, no developments have been made to the RA, and suggested revisions to the law are still being discussed in Congress.

To be recognized under the law as a single parent, one must apply for an identification card that verifies one’s status as such. This requires an application form, proof of residency and clearance from one’s barangay, birth certificates of one’s dependents, proof of financial status, and supporting documents that can prove one’s single parent status.

Retrieving these documents from the corresponding government offices is already a long, arduous process, but the government is also not proactive enough in furthering this legislation and making it effective in the first place. The application process itself is free; however, the government has made little effort in ensuring that single parents are well-informed of these benefits and services that, per the law, should be made available to their households.

As it is now, the law should be able to provide single parents with livelihood development services, counseling services, “flexible” work schedules, scholarship programs for those supported by the single parent, housing benefits, and medical assistance from various departments and agencies of the national government—depending on the parent’s salary.

Considering the global economic growth in the past decade, these “benefits” can no longer suffice as the only supporting services offered to single parents. Putting into context the country’s economic standing—as well as PSA’s P10,727 suggested minimum daily budget for a family of five to survive with basic needs—these recommended provisions to the law should not be seen as mere options to provide the bare minimum, but rather as needs.

If implemented, amendments would include individual income tax exemption of up to P50,000; and discounts on clothes, milk, and food products for children up to two years old; and on medicines for children up to five years old.

Further, discounts for public and private schools can be offered to the dependents, as well as on school supplies for dependents up to 21 years old.

On a positive note, the local government of Quezon City provides a 20 percent discount in food establishments to residing single parents, and they seem to be the only local government unit (LGU) pushing for this initiative. What then is preventing other LGUs from following suit? Varying budget per LGU may be a factor, but pushing for fast tracking the discussions in Congress is an option that can be easily pursued.

RA 8972 was initially enacted to cater to the needs of a specific sector of Filipino society; however, their needs have evolved, and the legislation as it is today is not sufficient in addressing their current needs. This may not be talked about much, but the gravity of the struggles and burdens of single parents—especially in providing for their families—should be acknowledged and be deemed important alongside the other matters that society currently chooses to focus on.

We shouldn’t turn a blind eye toward their plight; instead, we ought to be cognizant of their needs and struggles, involving their context within the country’s attempted discussions on matters such as divorce and gay marriage. If the nation is truly concerned about families—the very foundation of each society and nation—then it should be able to support each Filipino household, regardless of its form, size, or essence.

The struggles never really disappeared, or ever will disappear for those who stand as the lone providers of their families. For now, it is best to hope that the fate of RA 8972 will soon work in favor to change theirs.

Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

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