By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar said the middle-class families should no longer be receiving cash aid from the government since they supposedly continue to earn despite the quarantine restrictions imposed by the government.
At the Senate Committee of the Whole’s inquiry on the government’s COVID-19 response on Tuesday, Villar questioned the basis of the 18-million target beneficiaries for the emergency subsidy program mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
“Hindi ko ma-accept ‘yong figure na ‘yon kasi masyadong mataas (I cannot accept that figure because it’s too high). Kasi nade-deprive ‘yung mahihirap, at binibigyan pati ‘yong middle class (Because the poor are being deprived, while middle-class families are benefitting),” she said.
Citing government data, Villar said the 18 million comprise 82 percent of the total 22 million of families in the country as of 2015, when some 59 percent have only been considered as poor and low-income households.
“So bakit bibigyan ‘yong middle [class] eh may trabaho sila (why will give assistance to those in the middle class when they still have their jobs)? Kahit lockdown, nagsusuweldo sila sa gobyerno, kung (Despite the lockdown, they still receive their salaries from the government, if they are) employed by the government. Kung employed naman ng mga private, nagsusuweldo din sila (And if they were employed in the private sectors, they still get salaries). Kaya nga nahihirapan ‘yong mga companies (That’s why companies are having a hard time now) because they have to pay the salaries even if there is no business,” she asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Kasi kami libu-libo ang empleyado namin, kahit hindi sila napasok, sinusuwelduhan namin sila (Because in our case, we have thousands of employees, and even if they don’t go to work, they are still being paid). Eh bakit sila pa ang bibigyan ng SAP (So why do they have to benefit from the social amelioration program)? Eh mapalad sila may sweldo sila (They are fortunate to still receive their wages),” said Villar, whose family is engaged in real estate, retail and utility businesses, among others.
DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said the figure was based on the 2015 census, and the agency’s Listahanan which listed 15 million families within the “poorest of the poor” bracket.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the number of indigent families had to be adjusted to 18 million in consideration of the country’s population growth.
“To be accurate, we had to do a projection from 2015 to 2020. Otherwise, kulang kasi (it will be insufficient because) we have population growth,” he explained to Villar.
For 2020, they estimated that there would be 24.6 milion families, 18 million of which could be considered as belonging to the “no work no pay” sector, Chua said.
Villar asked the DSWD to submit a list identifying the 18 milllion beneficiaries to address confusion on the distribution of the cash aid to poor families.