The general manager of the Silliman University Cooperative in Dumaguete City has been sentenced to up to three years in prison and fined 50,000 pesos for refusing to give the mandatory 20% dsicount to all senior citizens who bought soft drinks at the establishment.
The Regional Trial Court of Negros Oriental affirmed the decision of the Municipal Trial Court for sentencing Roberto Estoconing to an “indeterminate penalty of two years as minimum and three years as maximum and a fine of p50,000.”
The case stems from a formal complant by Manuel Utzurrum Jr. again Estoconing for refusing to grant him the discounted rate when Utzurrum bought soft drinks at the cooperative a total of eight times in 2011.
Utzurrum is said to have written the manager three letters but never once received a reply to the issue at hand. He then filed a formal complaint in the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs in Barangay #5 where the cooperative is located.
Estoconing countered the complaint which said that Utzurrum, as an SU Coop member, already enjoyed incentives higher than the 20-percent senior citizens discount, like the annual patronage fund, the annual interest on his capital deposit and a credit privilege to get goods from the cooperative.
He also said that since cooperatives had to pay tax, any discount given to customers would have to be absorbed as losses that could lead to bankruptcy for the cooperative – however judge Maria Corazon Gadugdug convicted Estoconing for the offence.
Estoconing appealed the ruling claiming that Utzurrum was covered by the no-double discount provision of the law and that cooperatives were exempt from the Senior Citizens Act.
Judge Roderick Maxino upheld the case and said Estoconing’s “intentional violation” of Republic Act No. 9994 – the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, was a “classic example of undermining the rights of a senior citizen.”
Maxino said Estoconing’s argument prohibiting double discounts was “misplaced” and he had misconstrued the law.
Maxino cited Article 9 as referring to instances of promotional discounts where the senior citizen could either avail themselves of the promo or the 20-percent mandatory discount, whichever is more favorable.
Maxino also wrote that the law did not make a distinction between a cooperative and a non-cooperative business establishment.
“What are exempt from the senior citizens discount are children’s meals,” the judge said.