By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought a formal inquiry into the implementation of the national government’s emergency subsidy program or social amelioration program (SAP).
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.
The SAP allocated ₱200 billion to an initial 18 million low-income household-beneficiaries that have lost their sources of livelihood because of the pandemic. Recently, the number of beneficiaries of the SAP’s first tranche of aid was raised by five million to 23 million.
Read more: https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/05/02/palace-as-an-apology-23-m-families-will-now-benefit-from-sap-1/
De Lima, who was Justice secretary during the Benigno S. Aquino presidency, noted that millions of Filipinos have not yet received their cash aid from the government.
“What’s taking them so long? It’s been more than a month and a half [and] poor families are struggling with hunger while trying hard to dodge COVID-19. Where is the subsidy that the government committed to give them?” De Lima asked.
“The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should explain the cause of the delay in distributing the social amelioration fund, [and] identify the gaps in program design and implementation to improve delivery systems to its target beneficiaries,” she said.
Under the program, each household-beneficiary shall receive ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 per month.
The target beneficiaries are the poor or those vulnerable to losing their income during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), and those who have at least one member belonging to vulnerable or disadvantaged sectors such as senior citizens, persons with disability, pregnant and lactating women, solo parents, overseas Filipino workers in distress, indigent indigenous peoples, the 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,’’ De Lima said.
“With no source of income due to the enhanced community quarantine and lack of aid from the government, 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?” she asked.
“Let us work in solidarity with those in need, without the red tape. Provide them aid, not violence to overcome this crisis,’’ she added.
To expedite the process, De Lima urged the DSWD and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to consider effective measures, including the optimum use of Listahanan, the cross-referencing with the Department of Finance’s (DOF’s) list of households eligible for a Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law refund; and the adoption of a “pay now, verify later scheme” made more efficient with a community audit of published lists of families and the assistance of telecommunication companies.