MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday urged welfare officials to provide cash instead of relief goods to indigent families who may have lost their jobs after Luzon and other parts of the country were placed on lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, each poor household is entitled to receive a monthly cash aid between P5,000 and P8,000 for 2 months. The Department of Social Welfare and Development reportedly plans to use part of the fund to procure relief items for indigent families.
"Isa 'yun sa mga itutuwid o plaplantsahin namin. Kung ganun ang intindi ng executive o ng DSWD, kailangan makausap namin sila antimano," Sotto said in an interview on DZMM's Failon Ngayon.
"Kaya natin ginawa 'yan [batas] para 'yung cash ibigay sa kanila, sila bumili kasi 'yung goods natin [kasi] kung minsan hindi nila gusto 'yung dumating o napipilitan kasi walang wala talaga," he said.
"Pero kung sa kanila [ang pera], mabubudget nila at mabibili nila ano ang gusto nila doon sa lugar nila."
Cash is also easier and faster to distribute than relief packs, Sotto said.
While the law also mentions the distribution of relief goods to poor families, items like rice and canned goods from the government must be given on top of the cash subsidy guaranteed by the Bayanihan Act, the Senate President said.
"For example sa National Capital Region, P8,000 [ang makukuha per family]. Ipanggu-goods pa nila (DSWD) 'yun e 'yung mga local government units nagdi-distribute na ng goods?" he said.
Sotto said he would get in touch with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to clarify the issue.
As of March 31, the government has yet to distribute cash aid to indigent families as executive agencies are still finalizing databases to identify poor households across the country.
The Senate President said the public "cannot ask too much" from the executive branch as the crisis happened "suddenly."
"Sa kanila (executive branch) din naman ay naintindihan namin kung hindi agad lahat ay nationwide magawa," Sotto said.
"Nakita ko doon sa report at nakita naman natin on the ground na naumpisahan na at 'yung iba ay kasalukuyang ginagawa na," he said.
"We cannot ask too much kasi biglaan lang."
The Philippines recorded its first coronavirus-related death in February 2020. As of March 31, 2,084 patients have been infected with the disease in the Philippines, with 88 deaths and 49 recoveries.