SEN. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Monday warned of a possible social unrest if government fails to promptly address growing complaints on the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) subsidy, which Congress laid out in the Bayanihan We Heal as One Act to boost government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lacson issued the warning amid complaints from local government units and other sectors regarding the financial assistance of P5,000 to P8,000 intended for the more than 18 million families to cushion the impact of the enhanced community quarantine.
“I just hope they sort out all the kinks quickly and before people who lost their jobs due to business inactivity and work stoppage become restless and desperate,” he said.
Among concerns that senators have received are a wide gap in the list of the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the locally-generated data on the recipients of the P200-billion subsidy.
Several local government units have also aired grievances on the supposed “quota system” being implemented in the distribution of the social amelioration fund
Local officials claim that under the quota system, each municipality or city will be given a fixed amount from the P200-billion SAP fund based on the DOF’s 2015 census data.
The local officials, however, said, that the number of beneficiaries was far smaller than those qualified to receive the cash assistance.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, a former mayor of Valenzuela, complained about the quota system in a Twitter post.
“In our 2015 census, Valenzuela has 155,00 families. I just learned that DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) will give the P8,000 to only 95,000 families in Valenzuela. What will happen to the remaining 60,000 families? What are the qualifications to be included in the 95,000 quota?” Gatchalian said.
He said the system would earn the ire of the residents, who he warned might troop to city hall or barangay halls to complain, rendering the community quarantine useless.
He said barangay and local government officials will bear the brunt of their citizen’s ire.
The same was aired by Malabon City Mayor Antolin Oreta III who said the city was allocated only 44,032 out of the roughly 86,000 families in his city.
“COVID-19 spares no one, rich or poor. Every family deserves aid from the government in these extraordinary times. No one should be left behind,” Oreta said.
The Muntinlupa City government said a memo issued by the DSWD showed the city has been given P430.6 million for only 53,636 households but the city has more than 100,000 households based on a census in 2015.
Parañaque City reportedly received a quota of 77,764 out of around 160,000 households; Manila, with 435,237 households, got 185,000; and Cainta, in Rizal province, was given 37,145 out of 71,463 households recorded in 2015.
Mayor Andrea Ynares of Antipolo said the DSWD gave her city a limited number of bar-coded forms for social amelioration cards which were used to redeem the cash assistance.
In Calaca town, Batangas, the DSWD reportedly allotted 8,861 special amelioration card (SACs) forms to be distributed to its 40 barangays.
Barangay Sinisian, in Calaca town was only given 205 SAC forms by the DSWD. The barangay has more than 500 households.
Lacson said senators have been in constant communication with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to let him know of the situation on the ground.
He said the present kinks on the special amelioration funds show that the executive department came in unprepared.
“That is what I said earlier – when the executive asked for authority to be granted to the President by way of legislation, they should have prepared as a matter of foresight. They knew what they wanted but when we gave it to them in 18 hours of marathon session, apparently they were not prepared to execute,” Lacson said.
Lacson earlier said the government must be able to distribute the financial assistance at least a week after the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was signed into law by the President last March 26 since families affected by the ECQ “are already going hungry.”
If the executive does not act with dispatch, we may have a serious social problem to face. As the old adage says, “a hungry stomach knows no law.”
Sen. Joel Villanueva said government is slowed down in the distribution of the financial aid due to failure of getting details of the beneficiaries.
“Our main goal should be getting the assistance to households quickly. We suggest that DSWD make the targeting on an area basis and make sure food and other necessities are distributed in all households in poor areas like Payatas etc. We have to address hunger now,” Villanueva said.
PNP deputy chief for operations and Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the PNP is ready for any disorder that may break out amid the COVID-19 issue.
“That (problem) is being fixed, they are fixing that. Let’s hope that it will be fixed. The DSWD is coordinating with the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) to fix this,” said Eleazar.
Nevertheless, Eleazar said the PNP is well ready to respond to any eventuality. Eleazar is the head of the task force in charge of checkpoints and mobile patrols that ensure that movements in the streets are limited.
“But we are prepared. We are always prepared, we are ready, we are always prepared,” said Eleazar, adding: “The PNP always has a contingency plan to address any situation. The concerned agencies are resolving that (issue on social amelioration). We are hoping there will be no violence but the PNP is ready for any eventuality.” – With Victor Reyes