‘Kahit lockdown, nagsu-sweldo sila’: Villar questions why middle class receives cash aid
MANILA, Philippines — Why must the middle class receive cash aid from the government even though they receive salaries during the quarantine period?
Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday raised this question to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as she wondered why the agency had determined 18 million families to be beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
“I want to ask you kasi ang families natin in the Philippines is 22 million, di ba? Sabi niyo, 18 million ang bibigyan because they are poor. But do you know that 15 percent of our people are upper middle and then the rich, di ba? Yung 18 million is 82 percent,” Villar said during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.
(I want to ask because our families in the Philippines is 22 million. You said that 18 million families will be given aid because they are poor. But did you know that 15 percent of our people are from the upper middle and the rich? So 18 million is 82 percent.)
“So bakit bibigyan ‘yung [middle-class]?” Vilar further questioned. “Eh may trabaho sila, kahit lockdown, nagsu-sweldo sila. Sa gobyerno, kung employed by the government. Kung employed naman ng local, ng mga private, nagsu-sweldo din sila.”
(So why would we give aid to the middle class? They have jobs, even during the lockdown, they receive their salaries. Those in the government, even those in the local government and in the private sector, they receive their salaries.)
“Kaya nahihirapan yung mga companies kasi (The reason why companies are having a hard time is that) they have to pay the salaries even if there’s no business.”
Under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, a total of 18 million low-income families will receive cash subsidy from P5,000 to P8,000, depending on prevailing regional minimum wage rates, for two months during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
Villar added that if the data of the DSWD is based off of the 2015 census, only 60 percent of the total population should receive government assistance.
“How did you determine na 18 million? That’s 82 percent of the population, ‘di naman sila mahirap ah. May mga trabaho sila, nagsu-sweldo sila kahit lockdown (They’re not poor, they have jobs. They receive salaries even if during the lockdown),” Villar further asked DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista during the hearing.
However, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) acting secretary Karl Kendrick Chua answered Villar’s query, saying that they came up with the 18 million figure so it would be “accurate” knowing that there was a population growth from 2015 to 2020.
“So the 2020 estimate is now 24.6 million, of which 18 million are considered to be low-income, basically working in the informal sector, no work, no pay. That is the basis for the 18 million,” Chua said.
Still, Villar asked the DSWD to respond to her query in writing.
In April, the national government approved a P50.8-billion wage subsidy program for workers at micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
This would benefit 1.6 million small businesses in the formal sector and their combined 3.4 million employees who were affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
But Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez clarified that the financial assistance for the MSME workers were not for the middle class, as he said people in these sector were already benefitting from loan moratorium, extension of tax filing and payment deadlines, and disallowing banks to charge interest on housing and credit card debts.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.