Discount for seniors covers even burial services, SC rules

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INTERMENT services are covered by the 20-percent discount on funeral and burial expenses provided under Republic Act No. 7432 or the Senior Citizens Act, the Supreme Court has ruled.   

In an en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, the Court reversed and set aside the January 18, 2018 and October 22, 2018 resolutions issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cagayan de Oro City, which held  that interment services such as digging of land for the grave of deceased, the concreting of the gravesite, and other services done during the actual burial are excluded from the 20-percent Senior Citizens Act discount.    

The trial court’s ruling favored Pryce Corporation, Inc., a domestic corporation engaged in the business of selling memorial lots and offering interment services, in its petition for declaratory relief.   

The trial court agreed with the contention of Pryce that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, only mentioned the services of purchase of casket or urn, embalming, hospital morgue, and transport of the body to the intended burial site among those covered by the discount.   

The government through the Office of the Solicitor General, the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, however, brought the case before the SC and sought the reversal of the trial court’s decision.   

In ruling in favor of the government, the SC explained that  the Senior Citizens Act is a law created “to grant a bundle of benefits in favor of senior citizens or those at least 60 years old, giving flesh to the declared policy of motivating senior citizens to contribute to nation building and encouraging their families and communities to reaffirm the Filipino tradition of caring for the senior citizens.”        

It pointed out  that both RA 9257 and RA 9994, in amending RA 7432, do not provide for an exact definition of the term “funeral and burial services” but  it would be unreasonable to assume  that Congress intended to exclude interment  services from the coverage of the law.    

Thus, the Court explained  that the said laws “do not limit the scope of the services falling under funeral and burial services.”   

It stressed  “burial service” pertains to any service offered or provided in connection with the final disposition, entombment, or interment of human remains.    

“It follows that burial services necessarily include interment services, such as digging the land for the deceased person’s grave, its concreting, and other services being done during the actual burial,” the Court said.   

The Court maintained that this interpretation was in line with the policies and objectives of the law, particularly of RA 9994 which echoes Section 4, Article XV of the Constitution declaring that “it is the duty of the family to take care of its elderly members while the state may design programs of social security for them.” 

Image credits: Mike Gonzalez via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-3.0