‘Make it free for all’: Reactions to Senate bill seeking free funeral services for poor families

January 31, 2023 - 3:06 PM
Closeup shot of a person hand on a casket with a blurred background (Image by wirestock on Freepik)

A bill seeking to provide free funeral services for the poor garnered mixed cheers and jeers online.

Sen. Raffy Tulfo filed this proposed measure in the Senate on Jan. 18, 2023. This will institutionalize free burial and funeral services to the “extremely poor” of the country.

It should be noted that several government agencies, both at the local and national levels, have programs in place for the indigent community’s funeral and burial needs.

“This bill seeks to institutionalize a provision of burial assistance that offers free funeral services to the extremely poor nationwide,” Tulfo said in his explanatory note.

“This benefit shall include the preparation of funeral documents, embalming, viewing, burial, or cremation. Moreover, accredited mortuaries shall provide a casket or urn,” he added.

Tulfo also recognized the burial assistance program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

DSWD provides up to P10,000 worth of benefits for indigent families.

In the bill, the “poor” were defined as those “whose income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).”

This covered “families whose combined gross income does not exceed P15,000 per month, does not own real property, or a vehicle.”

Cheers and jeers

Several Filipinos welcomed this move. They said that a lot of poor people will benefit from this should this be signed into law.

“Ok din naman maraming mahihirap pinoproblema talaga ang pamburol ng kaanak,” one Facebook user said.

Other Filipinos, however, criticized the measure for excluding tax-paying middle-class workers.

“Make it free for the middle class as well. How about that?” a Twitter user said.

“Although the intention is good, define first what extremely poor is. How about the middle-class working sectors?” another tweeted.

Some of them also suggested that lawmakers should focus on wage increases and job opportunities instead.

“Instead of free funerals, the government should rather focus on increasing the salary and further widening the job avail for the poor,” one user said.

This will be the fifth time a bill seeking to grant free funeral services for the extremely poor was filed in Congress.

Last October, Makabayan bloc lawmakers refiled a similar bill for the fourth time under House Bill 5753.

Some online users, meanwhile, said that initiatives for funerals and burial are being provided by DSWD and other government agencies.

“My question is, this kind of service is already in DSWD through AICS [Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations] program which is burial assistance, and the Local Government Unit also has a service like this, so what’s the point of creating a bill?” a Twitter user said.

The AICS is the DSWD’s cash aid program for individuals who are in “crisis situations”. This includes the burial of a lost loved one.

The Social Security System members can also claim funeral benefits for their deceased loved ones.

They can avail from P20,000 to P40,000 worth of cash depending on their contributions.

Its counterpart, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), also covers burial and funeral expenses for its members.

GSIS pensioners can receive a fixed amount of P30,000.

Moreover, some LGUs also implement projects that include funeral and burial incentives and benefits for their constituents.