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Cabinet members donate part of salaries

MANILA, Philippines — In a bid to show that they feel and understand the suffering of quarantined Filipinos, most Cabinet members have agreed to donate up to 75 percent of their salaries to programs designed to address the coronavirus epidemic, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Some secretaries, he said, have even offered to donate a huge chunk of their pay up to December this year. Department secretaries are under Salary Grade 31, which translates to a monthly salary ranging from P262,000 to P301,000.

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Nograles said he was one of those who chose to donate most of his salary to the COVID-19 programs, but he would leave it up to his colleagues in the Cabinet—comprised of 21 department heads and 32 Cabinet-level officials—to disclose if they made a similar move.

Without fanfare

“We say that we [will] fight this war together,” he said as Filipinos, stuck at home with nothing to do, used social media to call out local officials for their inaction or for using the national health emergency as a pretext for self-promotion.

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Sen. Christopher Go spoke on a daily public briefing on government-run People’s Television Network to deny he had anything to do with corporate donations that were labeled with his name instead of the President or the government.

Both the online shopping company Shopee and the LT Group Inc., owned by tycoon Lucio Tan, explained that they were only thanking Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, for helping them identify which health institutions needed help.

Other senators said they had been working and helping Filipinos cope with the enhanced community quarantine without fanfare and without media tailing their every move 24 hours just so they could grandstand during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We know that this is not the time to seek fame or engage in one-upmanship. We should all win in this fight. No Filipino should be left behind,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a statement. “Let’s devote our competence and energy to genuine public service, whether anybody is watching or not.”

Officials challenged

“Our duty as lawmakers is to promptly pass the enabling law so the executive department can use funds to respond during this health crisis. We did so in 18 hours. It’s not our mandate to repack rice and sardines with a complete PR team around us. Some of us do, without the PR team!” he added.

Sotto did not name any official in his statement, but it was issued after Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso challenged officials, including senators, to help out during the crisis.

On Thursday, Domagoso streamed a live message on his Facebook page asking officials, including senators, to help the residents of Manila in their hardships.

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“Where are you? Where are you? My fellow citizens and I are looking for you. You’re always opposing things because you’re pushing your political interests. Are you heartless? You’re taking advantage of a leader’s weakness,” the mayor said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson made a more direct response in a Twitter post.

“Yorme, the government is able to provide financial aid to our residents in Manila because our senators worked to pass the (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act) despite the threat of COVID-19. Your accusation that we have done nothing is wrong,” the senator wrote.

Lacson said Sotto had been assisting health workers in Quezon City but chose not to seek publicity for it.

“We have our own ways of helping,” he added.

The following day, Domagoso made another Facebook Live stream and thanked Congress for the Bayanihan law that resulted in direct financial aid to 185,000 families in Manila.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, Duterte cabinet, Luzon quarantine
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