Fri. Sep 17th, 2021

MANILA – There is nothing wrong with the government’s move to include additional 5 million low-income families in the roster of beneficiaries of the second tranche of cash aid under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), Malacañang said on Tuesday.

“I don’t think there is really any question about whether or not it was proper to give [financial assistance] to 5 million additional beneficiaries,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press conference aired on state-run PTV-4.

He made the statement after Malacañang recently issued a memorandum ordering the inclusion of 5 million more poor families in the list of beneficiaries of the second wave of cash assistance under the national government’s SAP.

A Palace memorandum inked on May 22 states that the additional 5 million indigent families will join the 12 million other households under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program.

AICS program is one of the 13 social amelioration packages under SAP which allows beneficiaries to receive an outright cash grant of either PHP3,000 or PHP5,000 and PHP25,000 burial aid in case a family member dies due to Covid-19.

Quizzed if there is an irregularity in the latest directive order, Roque said: “Well, we believe there is compliance with both literal and intent of the law.”

Roque issued the statement, as some lawmakers have insisted that the original 18 million SAP beneficiaries, as provided under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act, should benefit from the implementation of the first and second phases of PHP200-billion SAP.

Under RA 11469, around 18 million low-income households who have lost their sources of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic will receive emergency cash assistance ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 for April and May.

The memorandum from Malacañang retains the original number of SAP recipients who will get the first tranche of cash aid. However, the latest order notes that only the 12 million poor families residing in places under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will receive the second wave of payouts.

Families living in general community quarantine (GCQ) may only qualify to benefit from the implementation of the second phase of SAP if they are still affected by the “continuing restrictions in the operation of certain industries and sectors.”

Cebu and Mandaue cities were put under ECQ, while Metro Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Zambales were placed under modified ECQ until May 31.

The remaining areas in the country are under GCQ.

Roque believed there was no irregularity in the issuance of the latest Palace memorandum.

He added that the court may resolve the issue, should someone question the validity of the fresh directive from the executive branch.

“Ang ginawa nga namin, mas marami pang nakinabang kasi (More families have benefitted because of what we did because) instead of 18 [million], it became 23 million families. So that is the position of the executive,” Roque said. “Kung merong question po diyan, mareresolba naman po iyan ng hukuman (If there will be a question there, it will be resolved by the court).”

Roque ensured that the government would use all the PHP200 billion earmarked for the SAP implementation.

“Kung may pera pa, eh di magbibigay pa rin. Uubusin natin iyan, buong-buo para sa ayuda (If we still have the money, we will distribute it. We will spend all the money for the distribution of cash assistance),” he said. (ia/PNA)

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