By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday urged local government units (LGUs) to provide the necessary funds to speed up the distribution of the emergency subsidy to their constituents.
Sotto issued the appeal as he reiterated the urgency of delivering the cash aid to the low-income families as mandated under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
The LGUs can advance the amounts needed and charge the expenses to the national government later, he said.
“Pakiusap naman natin sa mga local officials, abonohan ninyo yung kulang at saka natin singilin yung DSWD. Katulong ninyo kami na maniningil diyan at kung ano ang pondong kailangan, kung kailangan kaming gumawang batas para diyan, gagawin namin (We appeal to local officials, advance the lacking funds and we can charge the Department of Social Welfare and Development later. We will help you in billing them, and if necessary, we will craft the laws for that purpose),” Sotto said in an interview over radio DZMM.
He said the LGUs could use their calamity funds to give financial assistance to indigent households excluded in the national government’s list of beneficiaries.
“Inalis na nga namin yung cap, doon sa Bayanihan Act, wala na ngang cap sa mga calamity fund. Gamitin ninyo kahit anong pondo muna, ‘di ba? Boss, ang usapan dito, buhay muna, saka na yung pera (We removed the cap for the use of calamity funds in the Bayanihan Act. Use whatever funds you have, right? What matters is that we prioritize the lives of our people; think about the money later),” he said.
In his third weekly report to Congress on the implementation of the Bayanihan Act submitted last night, President Duterte said the budget department has so far released P101.5 billion for the distribution of subsidy by the DSWD and the Department of Labor and Employment.
Asked for his observations on the status of the emergency subsidy program, Sotto told reporters that the delay in the distribution of the cash aid was caused by the lack in coordination between the DSWD and LGUs.
“I think [the government] is doing its best but more than just cooperation is needed in some LGUs,” he noted.
He also scored red tape in the government, specifically in the implementation of the national ID system, which has not yet been carried out almost two years since it was created by law.
“The system should have been in place now if not for the red tape. I will urge the Senate to investigate why this is so when we resume (our session),” the Senate chief said.
In his public address Monday night, Duterte admitted that the national ID system could have helped the government contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sotto said the President’s third weekly report was “fine”.