MANILA – Senators on Monday asked both national and local governments to fast track the distribution of emergency cash assistance to 18 million poor families severely affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, particularly the daily wage earners.
Senator Panfilo Lacson pointed out that the provisions of Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, should have already been implemented five days into its effectivity.
Among the provisions of the urgent measure that was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 24 is the granting of cash subsidy – amounting between PHP5,000 and PHP8,000 per month for two months – to some 18 million indigent families, whose livelihood are severely affected by the enhanced community quarantine.
RA 11469 took effect “immediately” after it was published in newspapers of general circulation on March 25.
“It is now March 30. By now, those in charge of its implementation, particularly the distribution of cash dole-outs to the 18 million-plus families should already be taking place. Sadly, there are reports that families, especially the daily wage earners are going hungry already,” Lacson said in a statement.
He cited as an example the reports that some residents in the province of Isabela have resorted to eating corn fungus to stave off hunger.
Lacson warned that quarantined residents who have lost their income and have already spent whatever limited resources they have due to the travel restrictions in the past two weeks might resort to unlawful acts out of desperation to feed their starving families.
“If the executive does not act with dispatch, we may have a serious social problem to face. We know what desperation can drive the head of the family to do when he sees his family starving. As the old adage says, ‘a hungry stomach knows no law,” Lacson said.
Senator Joel Villanueva said he is looking forward to President Duterte’s the first weekly report to Congress, especially on the specific mechanisms on how the government operationalized the release of the emergency subsidy, the implementation of the expanded Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), as well as the additional allocation for emergency employment programs like the Covid-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP) and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD).
“The immediate rollout of these programs should help stem the hunger that is already being felt by our people,” Villanueva said in a separate statement.
“We expect that the weekly report will contain statistics on the progress of the government’s response, as well as the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds, so we can scrutinize and see where can we provide further assistance to our government,” he added.
On the other hand, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that Congress has incorporated into the Bayanihan Act everything needed by the people, which included granting Duterte the authority to deal with local government officials who are negligent in the performance of their duties.
“It’s now in the hands of the Executive department and the local government units (LGUs). The President is empowered to suspend or remove any local official who is not responding properly.” Sotto said. (PNA)