Sen. De Lima wants probe of emergency subsidy program in COVID-19

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for an investigation in the implementation of the emergency subsidy program of the national government in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 367 last April 27, in response to the confusion and frustration at the local administrative level with regard to the distribution of the emergency aid, which allocates a ₱200 billion social amelioration fund to 18 million low-income household-beneficiaries who have lost their sources of livelihood due to the pandemic.

“Millions of our countrymen have not yet received cash aid from the government,” she said.

“What’s taking them so long? It’s been more than a month and a half since poor families are struggling with hunger while trying hard to dodge COVID-19. Where is the subsidy that the government committed to give them?” added De Lima.

“The Department of Social Welfare and Development should explain the cause of the delay in distributing the social amelioration fund, identify the gaps in program design and implementation to improve delivery systems to its target beneficiaries,” she added.

Under the program, each household-beneficiary shall receive ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 per month. Target beneficiaries are the poor or vulnerable of losing their income during the enhanced community quarantine, and those who have at least one member belonging to vulnerable or disadvantaged sectors such as senior citizens, persons with disability (PWD), pregnant and lactating women, solo parents, Overseas Filipinos (OFs) in distress, indigent indigenous peoples, underprivileged sector and homeless citizens, and informal economy workers.

But due to unclear guidelines and conflicting statements from the national government, the allocation of this cash assistance resulted in much confusion and complaints. Many who hoped to receive aid were excluded from the list of beneficiaries.

“With no source of income due to the enhanced community quarantine and lack of aid from the governement, many Filipinos had to get scrappy in order to feed their families. Unfortunately, some of the ECQ enforcers, instead of exercising maximum tolerance, use brute force and oppression against them. Where is the justice there?” asked De Lima.

“Let us work in solidarity with those in need, without the red tape. Provide them aid, not violence to overcome this crisis”, reiterated the Senator from Bicol.

To expedite the process, De Lima urged the DSWD and the IATF to consider effective measures, including the optimum use of Listahanan, the cross-referencing with DOF’s list of households eligible for TRAIN law refund, and the adoption of “pay now, verify later scheme” made more efficient with a community audit of published lists of families and assistance of telecommunication companies.

For his parf, Sen. Win Gatchalian said the national government to grant additional Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shares to Local Government Units (LGUs) that remain under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) until May 15 to ensure unhampered delivery of basic needs to the public during this difficult time.

Gatchalian pointed out that most LGUs are now grappling for funds to provide for the basic necessities of their constituents – such as food and medical supplies – as they have exhausted all their cash position.

Aside from the earlier approval of the ‘Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities’ which is equivalent to one month of LGU’s IRA totaling P30.824 billion, Gatchalian said another round of COVID-19 IRA can help LGUs move towards providing continued medical response and relief efforts.

Gatchalian said businesses at this time have not renewed their permits and that real property taxes, where half of the local government’s revenue come from, remain uncollected.

He nited that the LGUs have exhausted every single centavo of their cash in the first 45 days of the ECQ which means that the extension until May 15 is a big problem to a lot of them. Kaya kailangan uli silang saklolohan ng national government,” Gatchalian said.

The Senate Vice Chairman on Economic Affairs said the situation affects the assistance being provided by the local governments to their constituents.

The senator prodded the national government anew to expedite the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), noting that as of April 30 only 53% or half of the targeted families for the program, have been served. The DILG has originally given LGUs a deadline of until April 30 to grant the said subsidy to their constituents.

The deadline has been extended for another week as requested by some LGUs.

Gatchalian said Republic Act 11315 or the law institutionalizing the use of Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) better known as the CBMS Act, should be implemented to expedite the delivery of SAP nationwide.

The CBMS Law refers to an organized technology-based system of collecting, processing and validating necessary disaggregated data that may be used for planning, budgeting and implementation of government programs geared towards poverty alleviation and economic development. It involves the generation of data at the local level which serves as basis in targeting households.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has cited miscommunication and confusion with the LGUs on the beneficiaries’ data as one of the challenges for the slower-than-expected distribution of SAP./Stacy Ang

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