Bayan Muna to Duterte: Perhaps intel funds, loans could be used as P10-K ayuda
MANILA, Philippines — Party-list group Bayan Muna had denounced President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to consider intelligence funds and loans from foreign lenders to provide P10,000 cash assistance to poor Filipino families.
In a statement on Tuesday, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said there should be a thorough accounting of what happened to the loans acquired by the government since these amounted to trillions of pesos that could have fed poor families during the lockdown.
Duterte probably borrowed around P2.564 trillion, Zarate alleged, based on reports that the national government owes P7.763 trillion in January 2020 and P10.327 trillion the following year. Using data from the Asian Development Bank, he also noticed that the Philippines received $3.6 billion or P174 billion, the second-largest aid package in Asia.
According to Zarate, this does not include the billions in grants and donations that other countries gave to the Philippines as he wondered where are all the money going and why so little money gets to the poor.
“Where did these loans go and where is the government accounting for these loans?” Zarate asked.
“We demand that President Duterte account where the Php 2.564 Trillion of the loans he incurred since only last year. We also urge that cash aid should be given to the poor and not in kind. The cash aid should be raised to Php 10,000.00 per beneficiary,” Zarate said.
According to him, Congress must hold a special session and expedite bills that would provide a P10,000 cash aid for the people, especially since the government could actually provide it.
“Government can afford to give more aid and we demand a Php 10,000 cash aid for poor affected by these lockdowns, that is why we are also calling for a special session of Congress to expedite bills and measures that can give the P10,000 ayuda to our suffering people,” Zarate said.
After COVID-19 cases rose dramatically in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, the administration promised to provide aid, either in cash or in-kind, to affected people.
Individuals whose jobs were affected by the lockdowns were eligible for P1,000, with a P4,000 ceiling on a single-family home.
Bayan Muna has, however, said that the financial aid provided was not enough to cover costs during the lockdown, while many said that they still have not received assistance even after the five areas mentioned have already transitioned to modified ECQ (MECQ).
Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares also wondered why the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), whose financial aid distribution has a poor record, was entrusted with it again.
When a huge portion of the country went into strict lockdown from March to May 2020, the DSWD was one of the key agencies tasked to distribute the social amelioration program (SAP). However, there have been reports that the SAP payments stopped after the ECQ period ended.
“DSWD had a dismal record in distribution of aid last year, but after one year, the military generals in the IATF still commit the same inefficient and incompetent handling of aid distribution. What is worse is that the aid itself is a measly P1,000 up to P4,000 for a family no matter the size, when the government could afford to give more to the people,” Colmenares said.
Colmenares and Zarate said that the President’s management of the COVID-19 outbreak led to deaths.
Breadwinners were forced to go to great lengths to earn money to feed their families, they said.
This comes with the risk of exposure, as there are more than 165,000 active cases in the country.
The already limited ayuda program only reaches 8 percent of the population. Many others will go hungry due to lockdowns and restrictions.
Already 15,286 have died since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in 2020.
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