Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, appealed for calm and advised critics to stop blaming the government for its supposed failure to immediately act in containing the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in the country.
Bautista, in a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, said blaming the government amid the health crisis would not do any good.
He said it is more important to focus on the efforts currently being undertaken by the Duterte administration to protect the people against Covid-19.
“Ang akin lang pong advice sa ating lahat (My advice to everyone is) this is not the time for blame game. We should help one another in any form we can,” he said in a speech aired on state-run PTV-4.
An enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has been imposed on the entire island of Luzon until April 30 to stop the further transmission of Covid-19, which already infected 3,870 individuals.
Around PHP275 billion will be earmarked to address the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The national government has also implemented the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), which mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) led by Bautista to grant emergency subsidies to 18 million poor households affected by the health crisis.
Bautista assured the public that the DSWD is doing its best to fast-track the distribution of cash relief to low-income families.
“Ang DSWD po ay gagawin ang lahat na tulungan ang ating mga LGU (local government units) para masigurado natin na mapadali, mapabilis ang pagbibigay ayuda under the Social Amelioration Program (The DSWD will do its best to help LGUs yo ensure the speedy distribution of assistance under the Social Amelioration Program),” he said.
‘Credible list’ of beneficiaries
LGUs have been tasked to submit their database of beneficiaries of the emergency subsidies worth between PHP5,000 and PHP8,000.
Those who can avail of the cash aid under SAP are the underprivileged, homeless, indigent, and indigenous families.
Families with members who are either informal or self-employed worker, rice farmer, senior citizen, person with disability, pregnant or lactating woman, solo parent, and distressed overseas Filipino worker are also part of SAP.
Bautista said the DSWD was able to secure a “credible” roster of SAP beneficiaries.
“Hindi po tayo masyadong nagkaroon ng problema dahil (We did not encounter many problems because) we have a credible list being kept by the DSWD,” he said.
Addressing gaps, shortcomings
During the first days of implementation of SAP, Bautista admitted that DSWD had encountered problems because LGUs had trouble giving accurate information about their constituents.
Bautista, however, acknowledged that LGUs are “not perfect,” especially since this is just the first time the country battles against the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also emphasized that the “gaps and shortcomings” had already been addressed after the DSWD assisted LGUs.
“Hopefully, in due time, we will be able to have it — distribute the cash amelioration systematically and orderly,” Bautista said.
Transparency and accountability
LGUs were initially tasked to distribute cash assistance to poor families.
But following complaints against LGUs’ supposed unfair distribution of emergency relief, Duterte tapped DSWD to take the lead in handing out the financial aid to low-income households.
Bautista encouraged the public to be a “vanguard of the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program.”
“Dapat lumakas ang ating boses dahil alam naman natin na ang Social Amelioration Program ay people’s money, coming from people’s tax. At hindi po dapat ito masayang o magamit lamang nga mga taong iniisip ang kanilang sariling interes (We should give voice because people’s money would be spent for Social Amelioration Program. The money should not be wasted or used for one’s own interest),” he said.
Bautista said the government would make sure that there would be “transparency and accountability” as it implements SAP.
He also said those who will attempt to pocket the funds allotted for SAP would be slapped with appropriate charges.
“Alam naman natin na may mga pagkakataon na may mawawalang pera o hindi mabibilang ang pera kaya kailangan po na mayroong taong managot (That person who will steal the money must face sanctions),” Bautista said. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)