A day before deadline, nearly all Metro Manila LGUs haven’t fully distributed aid
MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of their deadline, almost all of the local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila have not completely distributed the aid from the social amelioration program (SAP) to low-income families, Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño said on Wednesday.
He attributed this to the failure of mayors to tap barangay officials in distributing the COVID-19 lockdown aid.
The distribution of the first tranche of the SAP, as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, should be completed by Thursday, April 30.
“Almost all of the mayors in Metro Manila have not distributed 100 percent [of the aid],” Diño, speaking partly in Filipino, said in an interview aired over AM radio station DZMM.
He did not name the local governments that had not completed the aid distribution, but he cited the case of Quezon City, where he claimed to have seen city officials, instead of barangay officials, distributing the aid.
Diño is the undersecretary for barangay affairs of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
“What the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] is claiming is true — that as early as April 3 the money has been given to the local governments,” he said. “So now the mayors did not entrust to barangay captains the distribution of the money. They are the ones distributing it.”
“‘I saw this for myself in Barangay Commonwealth. I was wondering why it was people from city hall who were handing out the money,” he added. “But if they keep on doing this — there are 142 barangays in Quezon City —when will they ever complete it?”
According to the DSWD, it as transferred, as of April 27, P80.7 billion of the aid to 1,515 LGUs nationwide — or 98.8% of all the funds allocated to the SAP.
However, only P43 billion has been handed out to the beneficiaries — P16.4 billion to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries, P23.8 billion to those not part of the 4Ps, P36.4 million to 4P beneficiaries without cash cards, and P323.3 million to public utility vehicle drivers in Metro Manila.
Recently, observers speculated that LGUs might have been rushing the SAP distribution to avoid penalties.
In Lucena City, long queues of people seeking social aid were seen well into the night, in blatant disregard of physical distancing measures prescribed to avoid the local transmission of COVID-19.
Diño said that mayors found violating the memorandum of agreement they signed with the DSWD would be penalized by President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
“If they had let the barangay captains distribute that, they would have finished that as early as April 3. The mayors are playing safe because they are in charge of liquidating it. But they should have entrusted it to the barangay captains because they can also liquidate that,” Diño said.
The people who are hungry are the ones suffering because of this, he said.
“That’s why a lot of mayors would answer to the President,” he added.
The SAP is provided for in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which empowers Duterte to reallocate, realign, or reprogram items in the 2020 budget to COVID-19 response programs.
Under the law, 18 million Filipinos would receive a financial aid of around P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months, depending on the minimum wage in the region they are in.
The aid is intended for workers affected by the Luzon-wide quarantine, which suspended practically all work, including public transportation. This left workers who rely on daily earnings and those who cannot shift to a work-from-home scheme without income.
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