By Billy Begas
The pitch of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) should serve as an impetus for local government units to put up Solo Parents Offices (SPO) or SP Division (SPD) in their respective jurisdictions.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said the establishment of SPO or SPD will be in compliance with the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act (RA 11861) providing more benefits to some 15 million single fathers and mothers and their children.
At the same time, Villafuerte appealed to the LGUs to submit to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) the updated Solo Parents lists in their areas on a quarterly basis.
The DSWD is mandated by the law to create a centralized database of solo parents who will be issued Solo Parent Identification Cards (SPICs) and booklets by the LGUs.
“The expanded protection and promotion of the welfare of solo parents and their children under RA 11861 further concretizes the government’s commitment to the constitutional provision for the State to recognize the sanctity of family life and protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution,” Villafuerte said.
Most of the additional benefits in RA 11861 aside from the expanded list of those who will qualify as solo parents were contained in House Bill 6051 authored by Villafuerte.
Aside from parents whose spouses have passed away, now considered solo parents are unmarried fathers or mothers and rape victims who opted to keep their offspring, the spouses of semi-skilled overseas Filipino workers who have been away from the Philippines for at least one year, grandparents and other family members or qualified guardians who bear sole responsibility over children; and those whose spouses have been detained for at least three months for a criminal conviction.
Also classified as solo parents are those whose spouses have been medically certified as physically or mentally incapacitated, those who have been separated from their spouses for at least six months and have taken on sole parental care and support of their children, and those whose marriages have been nullified or annulled and have been entrusted with their child or children.
The law also entitles solo parents who are earning the minimum wage or below to a monthly cash subsidy of P1,000 provided they are not receiving any other cash aid from any other government agency.
Exempted from this provision, though, are senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) who are receiving subsidies due to old age and disabilities.
Qualified beneficiaries are also given a 10% discount and VAT exemption when buying baby’s milk, food and micronutrient supplements, sanitary diapers, and medicines prescribed for children six years of age and below.
Solo parents in the informal sector will be automatically covered by PhilHealth with the premium contribution paid for by the national government. For solo parents working in the formal economy, their premium contributions shall be shared equally by the national government and their employers.
They will also be given priority for apprenticeships, scholarships, livelihood training, reintegration programs for OFWs, poverty programs, and mass housing programs of the government.