By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros has sought the passage of a measure seeking to expand the benefits and privileges for solo parents and their children.
Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1936, otherwise known as an Act Providing For Benefits And Privileges To Solo Parents and Their Children.
The bill primarily seeks to amend Republic Act 8972 or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act in order to expand the definition of solo parents, to include spouses of low and semi-skilled overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who are away from the Philippines for a year.
Hontiveros said the reforms in the law would help alleviate the plight of solo parents in the country, and mitigate the disadvantages that children in solo parent household have to live with.
The measure seeks to provide discounts to solo parents and their children for medical, educational and other basic needs, including tuition fees and discounts on recreational activities.
The bill also requires the creation of a Solo Parents Affairs Office in local government units (LGUs) and mandates the creation of daycare facilities in companies with more than 100 employees.
Citing studies by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Hontiveros said the number of solo parents in the Philippines was at three million in 2015, two million of whom were women.
Under the bill, solo parents will be entitled to a 20 percent discount on medicines, vaccines and other medical supplements, supplies, accessories and equipment for the child until he or she is 18 years of age.
Likewise, solo parents can avail of a 20 percent discount on all purchases of a child’s basic necessities; 20 percent discount on tuition fees per child from kindergarten to college level in both private and public educational institutions on top of any scholarship grants if any; 20 percent discount on hospital bills on both private and public hospitals; 20 percent discount on consultation and laboratory diagnostic fees and purchase of medicines for the solo parents and their children as well as a 20 percent discount on all private and public recreational facilities.
Solo parents can also claim tax amnesty and/or reduction of real estate or inheritance taxes, as well as P50,000 personal exemption from the individual income tax, in addition to the existing exemption that a solo parent may claim for their children.
Also under the measure, any person, corporation, entity or agency which violates the act or discriminates against the hiring of solo parents for work will face a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than one year or both for the first offense.
Subsequent violators of the proposed Act will also be fined not less than P100,000 but not more than P200,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than two years or both.
The bill also provides safeguards against possible abuse as any person who misinterprets the status or who abuses the privileges granted in the Act shall be slapped with a fine not less than P10,000 but not more than P50,000 and imprisonment of six months.