Saturday, May 1, 2010
Background on the Transfer and Closure of the Golden Acres From Quezon City To Tanay, Rizal
After 40 years, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) now plans to transfer the Golden Acres Home for the Aged, a residential facility managed by the DSWD National Capital Region Field Office) from its present site in Misamis St. Bago Bantay, Quezon City (beside SM North) to Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal (beside Camp Capinpin) to be managed by the DSWD-Field Office IV-A (CALABARZON Region) on April 16, 2010.
The Golden Acres (GA) is one of the three (3) residential care facilities of the DSWD for neglected and abandoned older persons (aged 60 years old and above). The other two facilities are in the cities of Tagum (Region XI) and Zamboanga (Region IX) in Mindanao.
The GA itself has been in existence through an executive issuance for almost 81 years since July 1929. From San Lazaro Hospital it was relocated to the Welfareville Compound in Mandaluyong and then finally moved to its present site. Proclamation 380 signed by former President Ferdinand on April 14, 1968 provided a parcel of land (about 10,000 square meters) situated in Bago Bantay, Quezon City as a site for the Home for the Aged and Infirm. On September 30, 1969, this Home for the Aged was inaugurated and named “Golden Acres” under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD).
The Golden Acres in Quezon City
The Golden Acres serves as a residential home addressing the various needs of elderly residents to ensure their health and well-being. Living quarters, food, clothing and beddings are provided to approximate family life. House parents work on shifts to attend to the elders' needs.
Occupational and recreational activities are given also to enhance the residents' vocational skills and capacity to earn to prepare for the day when they will be reintegrated with their relatives, if ever. Health and medical services such as consultation, treatment and referral for physical and mental conditions are also provided. Spiritual services, activities for social interaction, relaxation and fun among residents are integral parts of the activities in Golden Acres.
The center enjoys ample donations from generous donors who take time out to personally deliver goods and stuff to the residents. There are also volunteers and on-the-job trainees at the center helping not only the GA staff but also augmenting expenses for operations through the training fees collected from the training institutions. The GA earns about P300,000 per year (GA staff estimates 50 students/month x P500 training fee x 12 months).
The goal of the center is to locate the relatives of residents for reintegration. But if the relatives could not be traced, the elderly resident remain at the center.
At present, the Golden Acres has a 235-bed capacity and a staff of 70 but it served an average of more than 300 senior citizens from 2004 to 2008.
Number of Abandoned and Neglected Senior Citizens Served by DSWD, CY 2000 to CY 2008
YEAR No. Served in Golden Acres No. Served in JFC* TOTAL
2008 347 141 488
2007 340 298 638
2006 357 182 539
2005 347 16 363
2004 339 15 354
2003 N.A. N.A.
2002 390 20 410
2001 432 N.A. 432
2000 497 N.A. 497
Source: DSWD Annual Reports
* The Jose Fabella Center (JFC) provides temporary shelter to rescued vagrants, mendicants, psychotics, and transient residents including abandoned older persons. These clients are provided placement services such as locating and returning them to their own families, referring them to other residential care facilities of NGOs and LGUs or transferred to Golden Acres.
Per NSO report, the population of senior citizens in NCR is increasing in absolute term from 465,514 (2000) to 597,283 (2003).
The Transfer to Tanay
The DSWD in Region IV-A manages a National Training School for Boys (NTSB), a rehabilitation facility that provides care and rehabilitation services to male children below 18 years old who are in conflict with the law. The lot where NTSB is measures about 4-6 hectares and is located beside Camp Capinpin in Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal. Prior to 2007, the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. (CSFI) donated P30 million to start the construction of a new residential center for abandoned and neglected senior citizens in this site to be later named as "Haven for the Elderly".
Then Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said that the new facility would augment the Golden Acres in Quezon City to respond to the problem of congestion. She said there is no plan to close nor to transfer the Golden Acres nor to sell the lot where it is located despite rumors that it will be sold as part of the government plan to convert that area in Quezon City in to a business district area.
However, in 2007 then Secretary Esperanza Cabral announced the DSWD plan to transfer Golden Acres from Quezon City to Tanay, Rizal. She said that aside from overcrowding, the Golden Acres needs to be transferred because it is located in a polluted and cramped area and the new site in Tanay would be better for the health and well being of the elderly clients.
At that time, the DSWD asked for additional budget for the construction of the new facility in Tanay, Rizal.
In the congressional budget hearing, Cabral said that DSWD hopes to benefit from the income when government sells the property in Bago Bantay to augment DSWD funds for the operation of its other centers and institutions. The following year, Congress provided P200 million to DSWD to complete the construction of the Haven for the Elderly in Tanay.
Protest Against the Transfer
Since 2007, the Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP), the employees union of the DSWD, has been protesting this transfer plan. The SWEAP protests the transfer because:
1. Employees of Golden Acres would go to work far from their family’s majority of, which has family members studying and working in Metro Manila.
2. The resident older persons are not willing to transfer because their friends would have a harder time visiting them.
3. The Tanay facility would be far from hospitals and other usual urban amenities
4. If ever the GA is closed in Quezon City, the less fortunate aged population would be deprived of an accessible residential facility and services in NCR.
5. The lot to be abandoned in Quezon City is meant for the aged and the infirm according to Proclamation No. 380.
6. The donors and volunteers of Golden Acres would have a harder time going to Tanay to provide their services.
SWEAP fears the real motive for the closure and transfer of the facility is to sell this prime lot The SWEAP does not oppose the construction of the Haven for the Already which is already ongoing at that time. The SWEAP positioned that Golden Acres in Quezon City should continue to operate even when the facility in Tanay starts to operate.
The Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines (FSCAP) in Quezon City and NCR also expressed opposition against the transfer and eventual closure of Golden Acres in Quezon City. In a Senior Citizens Forum held at the Senate in 2009, the SWEAP and FSCAP position was supported by other senior citizens organizations and NGOs such as COSE (Coalition of Services for the Elderly). Several protest actions including one covered by media wherein the elderly residents themselves joined were undertaken by SWEAP.
DSWD Management Response to the Protests
The DSWD Management responded to the protests with dialogues. They said that DSWD has no plan to sell the lot and that they are contemplating on using it to become a “reception and action center for the elderly”. They promised that DSWD would seek positions in the DSWD-NCR for the GA staff who are not willing to transfer. And for those who would transfer, staff houses, and transport services would be provided. Assistance to friend, donors and volunteers of GA would be given to help them continue with their services. Ambulance service would also be acquired for elderly residents when they are transferred to Tanay. Although, SWEAP continued to oppose the transfer, protest actions waned because of these promises.
Then, on December 30, 2009, a national holiday, the employees of Golden Acres were asked to report for work and were told to sign their reappointment papers to DSWD-IVA or else they would find themselves virtually unemployed. They were informed that their salaries and positions were already transferred to DSWD-IVA. They also later found out that only the present center head of Golden Acres was to be retained by DSWD in NCR while the rest of the 69 other regular and contract of services staff of the GA in Quezon City would be transferred to new facility in Tanay.
The SWEAP protested this to the DSWD Management saying this move was coercive and manipulative and done in bad faith. Complaints were then later filed by SWEAP at the Commission on Human Rights for violation of human rights and at the Bureau of Labor Relations for unfair labor practice.
The SWEAP also submitted a protest letter to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for a possible violation of the election ban if DSWD transfers its personnel from NCR to Region IV-A as planned on April 16, 2010. The DSWD Human Resource Management and Development Services (HRMDS) said there was no need to seek an exemption from the ban. The HRMDS said the plantilla positions were already transferred and approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) last year and the reappointment papers were signed by the GA employees on December 30, 2009 before the January 10, 2010 start of the election ban. However, the HRMDS submitted for approval to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) these reappointment papers only on February 15, 2010.
The implementing guideline on the transfer of Golden Acres from Field Office NCR to Field Office IV-A DSWD, Administrative Order No, 7 Series of 2010 was signed by Acting Secretary Celia C. Yangco on February 25, 2010. The SWEAP protested the issuance of AO 7 not only because it was too late but also because they were not given a chance to comment on its draft and the guideline explicitly states that Golden Acre shall be closed.
On January 10, 2010 the SWEAP made an appeal letter to Malacañang expressing opposition to the transfer and closure of Golden Acres in Quezon City. Last April 5, the SWEAP received the Malacañang response through a letter signed by DSWD Assistant Secretary Parisya Taradji. It affirmed what DSWD Acting Secretary Celia C. Yangco said to SWEAP officials in a dialogue that the DSWD plans to convert the use of the lot to be left by Golden Acres in Quezon City as a residential and action center for the elderly. However, Asec Taradji added in that letter that the National Project Management Offices of the KALAHI and 4Ps would also be transferred to this site.
The SWEAP has not seen up to now any draft of the said concept paper of this reception and action center. Although this idea is welcomed, the SWEAP still insist that it is much better to retain the existing Golden Acres in Quezon City.
STOP Planned Transfer on April 16, 2010
In a letter to Secretary Yangco dated April 7, 2010, the SWEAP asked for the deferment of the planned transfer of the GA staff and residents from Quezon City to Tanay without prejudice to their position not to transfer it and to retain its operation in Quezon City because:
1) The staff has so many unsettled issues yet with the transfer and are not prepared for it as required by DSWD AO No. 7;
2) There is no acceptable assessment made yet on the readiness of the elderly residents who will be subjected to much stress on the actual physical transfer which is required also in AO 7, and;
3) The building/facility in Tanay itself is not yet duly certified ready to house the transferred GA residents and staff. An ocular visit of SWEAP representatives was conducted on April 9, 2010 confirming this. Enclosed is a report on their findings.
4) There is no concrete plan on what would happen to the lot and facility in Bago Bantay if ever the transfer happens
The SWEAP vows to mount up its protest to the transfer and closure of Golden Acres.
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