By Ben Rosario
With the exception of President Duterte, government officials implementing the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) may face criminal charges for leaving out from the cash assistance Filipinos living outside enhanced community quarantine areas.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez aired this warning as he pointed out that the Department of Social Welfare Development and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases violated Republic Act 11469, the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act, for barring those living in relaxed quarantine classifications from receiving cash assistance.
“Be aware everybody that there will be gross violation of the law if this will continue to be a deprivation of all our low-income families that were not included (in the SAP),” Rodriguez stated during a joint hearing of the Committees on Good Government and Accountabilities and on Public Accounts.
The two House panels were tasked to inquire into the system of distribution of cash assistance being implemented by the DSWD, which many congressmen, including Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, have assailed.
Rodriguez told DSWD officials that Section 4c of RA 11469 clearly provides the distribution of emergency subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 be given to 18 million low-income households for two months.
The provision did not state whether or not the qualified recipient resides within a specific quarantine status as described by government. Thus, government is wrong in limiting the distribution of cash assistance to those living in areas under ECQ.
Under the guidelines set by the DSWD and IATF, low income households whose quarantine has been relaxed are no longer included as SAP beneficiaries.
Rodriguez said this is grossly unfair to the poor families in his congressional district and other areas in Mindanao.
Undersecretary Danilo Pamonag said the distribution of SAP to those currently qualified was approved by the IATF and ultimately, President Duterte.
On the other hand, DSWD chief legal officer Paul Tacorda said the setting of qualifications of SAP recipients is a “collegial decision of the IATF.”
“The powers enumerated in RA 11469 are conferred to the President, so decision to give subsidy for the first tranche is sanctioned by the President. We believe that it is the firm position of IATF and agency that they have substantially complied with in good faith,” Tacorda explained.
Rodriguez said the President is immune from charges.
“But this is clearly a violation of the law and those responsible will be the IATF and the DSWD,” said Rodriguez.
He also warned that officials may also be held liable to charges of violation of the anti-graft law.