Give cash aid to 1.26M waiting Filipinos -- solon

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros yesterday urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to immediately release cash aid under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) to 1.26 million qualified households in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon that have yet to receive any subsidy, amid news of record-high unemployment among Filipinos due to the pandemic.  

“Hindi katanggap-tanggap na lagpas isang milyong kwalipikadong pamilya ang hindi pa rin nakatatanggap ng ayuda. Ilang buwan na ang dumaan, tapos na ang round 2 ng lockdown, pero wala pa rin. If govenrment cannot yet commit to a new, third tranche of SAP releases, at the very least we should see to it that all qualified families get to receive the cash aid allocated to them under the first and second tranches,” Hontiveros said. 

The senator made the call after the DSWD announced that it is nearing the completion of payouts for the second tranche of SAP, since it has already released cash aid worth P74.2 billion to at least 12.28 million beneficiary families. According to Hontiveros, the government must not “close the books on SAP without first ensuring that all families qualified for SAP have actually received cash aid to help buy food, medicine and other basic needs.”

“Huwag sana kalimutan na base mismo sa mga regulasyon at datos ng pamahalaan, may tinatayang 1.26 million pamilya sa National Capital Region (NCR), Region III at Region IV-A na simula noong Marso ay hindi pa nakakuha ng ayuda sa ilalim ng SAP, kahit na pasok sila sa programang ito. Let’s ensure that the funds allocated to help these families will actually end up with them, as intended,” she added.

Hontiveros noted that the original DSWD memorandum circular (MC No. 04) which contained guidelines on the release of SAP, mandated that 18 million families — or at least 75 percent of households in NCR, Region III and Region IV-A — were qualified for SAP. By extension, 75 percent of households in each of the three regions were supposed to receive cash aid under the program, since these were the areas most affected by community quarantine protocols enforced since March.

However, Hontiveros said, Malacanang’s last report to Congress under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act indicated that SAP funds were distributed only to 54 percent, 66 percent and 64 percent of NCR households, Region III households and Region IV-A households, respectively. This meant that 668,381 households in NCR, 232,831 households in Region 3 and 360,683 households in Region IV-A were supposed to receive social amelioration funds but did not.

“The DSWD has recently said that they have cut down the list of beneficiary families to 14.1 million for the second tranche of SAP. Sigurado, may pondo na sila para sa 1.26 milyon na pamilya na matagal nang naghihintay ng ayuda mula sa pamahalaan. Wala nang dahilan kung bakit hindi natin matutulungan ang mga pamilyang ito,” she said. 

The urgent release of the pending SAP funds, Hontiveros said, is necessary to minimize the number of families affected by the record-high 45.5 percent unemployment rate in the country recorded last July. “Nasa 27.3 milyon na ang Pilipino na nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa COVID-19. Mabilis na ayuda ang kailangan ng taumbayan, dahil marami na ang nagugutom at nagkakasakit,” she said.