As Duterte slams pantries, civil society wants special Congress session on aid
MANILA, Philippines — Civil society leaders have called on President Rodrigo Duterte to convene Congress in a special session to tackle new measures to provide low-income families with social aid in light of his criticism of community pantries.
According to a statement from former officials and academe leaders forwarded by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Duterte should consider the community pantries as the Filipinos’ way to cope with growing poverty amid the lockdowns due to COVID-19.
A portion of Duterte’s Monday night briefing appeared to be a jab at community pantry organizers for allegedly encouraging mass gathering for free food, which goes against health protocols.
“We, the undersigned, urge President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special session of Congress and to certify as urgent several pending measures for economic stimulus and social amelioration as the nation continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic,” the civil society leaders said.
“The phenomenal rise of community pantries all over the country underscores the current plight of the poor – they have no work, no food, are vulnerable to sickness and have very little means of getting back on their feet. Everyday, long lines amid the scorching heat are seen at these pop-up pantries,” they added.
According to the authors of the letter, which includes former Social Welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, former Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano, and University of the Philippines School of Economics Professor JC Punongbayan, the special session is necessary so that Congress can address the pending bills, like the proposed Bayanihan To Arise As One Act or Bayanihan 3.
The Bayanihan 3 provides a P405.6-billion budget, which includes two rounds of cash aid amounting to P1,000 per Filipino. Also, there is the Ayuda bill which, if passed, would provide a P10,000 stimulus package to poor Filipinos.
“The P1,000 per person cash aid for families affected by the ECQ is not enough and its distribution remains very slow. Its equivalent is a mere 2-days wage for those who have lost their jobs or were temporarily unemployed during the ECQ. That is why new appropriations for social amelioration are needed,” they said.
“There are funding sources for this. For a start, there is the growing clamor to realign the NTF-ELCAC’s P19 billion funds and re-channelling these to social amelioration. These are dire times that require urgent action. The people need immediate relief,” they added.
Aside from the three personalities mentioned above, here are the other signatories of the letter-request:
Liza Maza, former NAPC lead convenor
Noel Leyco, former DSWD officer in charge
Mae Fe Templa, former DSWD undersecretary
Dr. Manolet Dayrit
Dr. Margarita Holmes
Bp. Rhee Timbang, Obispo Maximo, IFI
Sonny Africa, IBON Philippines
Dr. Raul Sebastian, Dean College of Social Science and Development, PUP
Dr. Hilda San Gabriel, Chairperson, College of Cooperative and Social Development, PUP
Dr. Michael Domingo Pante, History Department, Ateneo de Manila University
Prof. Fructuoso Sabug, Leadership & Strategy Department, Ateneo de Manila University
Prof. Juan Pablo Martirez, Chairperson, College of Political Science and Public Administration, PUP
Prof. Rhodora M. Bucoy, former UP Cebu Associate Professor and Independent Gender Advisor
Prof. Rene Luis Tadle, Dept. of Philosophy, UST, President, Council of Teachers and Staff of Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (COTESCUP)
Community pantries sprouted after Metro Manila and nearby provinces went on an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to rising COVID-19 cases. With the ECQ impacting many jobs and livelihood, people devised a plan to put food on the table of people — by soliciting donations from others in the community.
The pantry was popular because some sectors thought the government’s aid of P1,000 per head — with a cap of P4,000 per family — was too little.
But health experts noticed that protocols were not being followed from physical distances to wearing face masks and face shields.
According to Duterte, the government would be burdened should infections arise from the gathering of people searching for food assistance. He also implied that people behind the community pantries would not be in charge of the people’s expenses if they contract COVID-19 — as patients would go to government hospitals.
“Alam ninyo, na kayong nakapag-aral, the very thing that is being avoided, or tried to control, was ‘yong convergence ng tao, na mas malapit, ‘yong laway nag-aabutan, nagsisigawan. That’s the very thing na ayaw ng gobyerno,” Duterte said.
(The very thing we are avoiding or trying to control is the convergence of the people.)
“Pangalawa alam ninyo na ito, uuwi ito sa bahay, may asawa, may anak, may pamilya, dadalhin nila ‘yan, ‘yong infection na nakuha nila sa maraming tao, tapos kung magkasakit hindi naman kayo ang pupunta-puntahan doon na mag-hingi ng tulong, magpunta ‘yan sa gobyerno, problema ng gobyerno ‘yan,” he emphasized.
(Secondly, you know this, they will go home, they’re married and have a child, have a family, they will infect other people, then if you get sick you won’t go there to ask help, that goes to the government, that’s the government’s problem.)
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