Senator Grace Poe on Sunday called for a moratorium on the imposition of penalties or similar charges on delayed payment of bills and other obligations.
She particularly directed her call to corporations, banks, and private and government financial institutions in the light of the public health crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“We seek the compassion and goodwill of companies in making sure that there will be no service interruption, disconnections or penalties as a result of the unwanted delay in payment,” Poe said.
While everyone wants to settle his obligations on time, he however said this pandemic has brought unintended consequences that have affected the financial condition of the public, especially workers who are on no work-no pay scheme.
For those who have the means to pay, she said the last thing they want to happen are kilometric queues in banks and payment centers beating the closing time in paying their bills.
She said this scenario would run counter to the government’s efforts to implement social distancing and to as much as possible keep the people in their homes to avoid the exposure to the disease.
“We urge concerned government agencies to thresh out the details of this proposed measure, such as the reasonable time when payments can be accommodated,” she said.
“As the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus, we will continue to seek for ways to ease the burden on the people and to ensure that their general welfare is protected,” she said.
Meanwhile, due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the Senate Minority on Sunday called for a special session of Congress to pass a supplemental budget.
The move intends to address the pandemic and help affected Filipino households, workers and businesses.
The minority senators said the supplemental budget should cover the test kits for massive testing, relief goods for the most vulnerable, additional health personnel, equipment such as protective gear and hospital beds, and vitamins and medicine.
This will also include cash support or basic income grant for the daily wage earners and the unemployed who do not have sick and vacation leaves and subsidy or easy loans to help businesses, especially the micro and small ones, keep afloat during this period.
The minority bloc is composed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said poor Filipinos, including those who will suffer income loss due to COVID-19, should receive P10,000 cash assistance.
Hontiveros estimated that at least 650,000 Filipino households will become the “new poor” in Metro Manila alone due to the economic implications of the lockdown.
“The government should immediately track down and extend P10,000 assistance to these households which will mostly come from vulnerable contractual workers and workers in the informal economy,” she said.
“The same cash assistance should also be immediately disbursed to poor households within the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) household targeting system,” she added.
Hontiveros explained that companies laying off workers and COVID-19’s adverse effects on the informal economy will place households more at risk in terms of their food security and health.
The senator likewise urged DSWD and the Department of Labor and Employment [DOLE] to craft and implement a comprehensive safety net for the poor and near-poor who will be adversely-affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, starting with the said cash assistance.
Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva said officials from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Commission on Audit (COA) have agreed to his proposal for the continued pay of Metro Manila-based contractual employees working in government while the capital is under a community quarantine to stem the spread of COVID-19.
CSC and COA are meeting on Monday to hammer out the final details of the resolution, which will affect over 100,000 contractual workers categorized as either job order or contract of service, according to the lawmaker.
“We are grateful to our government for considering our proposal for job order or contract of service workers in government to still be paid while work in parts of the government remain suspended to prevent spreading the risk of our people from getting infected by COVID-19,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development, in a statement.
“This will complement the existing work-from-home arrangement that government offices will implement while Metro Manila is under community quarantine. It will allow our colleagues under job order or contract of service categories to be paid while they are telecommuting during the quarantine,” Villanueva added.
Villanueva explained that guidelines covering the payment of workers under job order and contract of service categories are jointly issued by the CSC and COA.
Nearly 670,000 contractual workers in government are under either job order or contract of service categories as of May 2019, according to CSC data. Some 110,000 of government contractual workers are in the National Capital Region where a community quarantine is being implemented from March 15 to April 14, 2020.
While the government ordered that a skeletal staffing be implemented in government offices to ensure that services remain unimpeded, the income of daily-paid workers will shrink significantly to the point that they may not be able to provide for their families, pointed out.
Villanueva, added that this was the context of his proposal for the continued pay of contractual workers in government.
“We hope our CSC and COA officials are able to finalize the guidelines by Monday so that we can ease the concern of our government contractual workers and focus our attention and effort to other problems our country is facing, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Villanueva said./ Stacy Ang