House to probe delays in coronavirus cash aid

Font Size

A MAN in Batasan Hills, Quezon City endures the heat as he lined up for the government’s cash aid program on May 07. — PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

By Genshen L. Espedido, Vann Marlo M. Villegas
and Gillian M. Cortez, Reporters

HOUSE of Representative leaders led by Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano want to investigate delays in the government’s distribution of cash aid to citizens affected by a coronavirus pandemic.

In a resolution, the congressmen cited unnecessary requirements imposed on beneficiaries including long application forms that intimidate ordinary people.

The House probe would seek to find ways to help the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) properly enforce its so-called social amelioration program.

The Department of Health (DoH) yesterday reported 364 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, bringing the total to 26,781.

The death toll rose to 1,103 after five more people died, while 301 more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 6,552, it said in a bulletin.

Of the new cases, 249 were reported in the past three days, while 115 were reported late.

DoH said three cases had been removed from the tally after being verified as negative. One of them was tagged as having recovered.

“The total cases reported may be subject to change as these numbers undergo constant cleaning and validation,” it said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said most of the new cases were from Metro Manila and Cebu province in central Philippines.

Meanwhile, the House resolution cited issues that may have led the agency to miss distribution deadlines such as the release of the second tranche of aid for beneficiaries for May and June.

The lawmakers said the agency had arbitrarily and without consulting local governments based the number of beneficiaries on the 2015 national census. There were actually more people eligible for the aid because the population had since increased, they said.

Because of this, local governments have been in a quandary in identifying people who should be prioritized for the cash assistance, they said.

A law that gave President Rodrigo R. Duterte special powers in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic allotted a budget in which 18 million low-income households would get P5,000 to P8,000 in monthly aid for two months.

The House inquiry will look into the distribution of the emergency subsidy and other assistance programs of the Social Welfare department amid the pandemic.

“The pandemic and its aftermath forces all of us to re-examine the way we do things,” Mr. Cayetano said in a statement on Tuesday. He said government bureaucracy could “sometimes get in the way of helping the people,” adding that there are right and wrong ways to help them.

Social Welfare spokeswoman Irene B. Dumlao did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comments.

Aside from the House Speaker, Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte. Jr., Raneo E. Abu, Danilo Ramon S. Fernandez, Neptali M. Gonzales II, as well as Batangas Rep. Theresa V. Collantes, Manila Rep. Cristal L. Bagatsing, Laguna Rep. Ruth Mariano-Hernandez and Manila Rep. Manuel Luis T. Lopez signed the resolution.

Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte would meet with business leaders after June to discuss lockdown measures and efforts to restart the economy that the pandemic had brought to a near standstill, his spokesman said.

Presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told a news briefing the dialog would happen after this month, when the general community quarantine in Metro Manila is expected to be eased further.

Mr. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. He extended the strict quarantine twice for the island and thrice for Manila and nearby cities where infections were mostly concentrated.

The lockdown in the capital region was eased to a general lockdown on June 1, which was extended until June 30 this week.

Metro Manila accounts for more than a third of Philippine economic output. The economy shrank by 0.2% last quarter because of the lockdown.

The virus has sickened 8.1 million and killed about 440,000 people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.