MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Cynthia Villar on Wednesday apologized for insinuating that middle-class workers should not receive government aid during the coronavirus crisis, after her statement in a Senate hearing drew ire on social media.
Villar, during the Senate's Committee of the Whole hearing on Tuesday, questioned the executive branch's decision to extend cash aid to 18 million families, saying government should not provide financial assistance to the middle class because people classified as such are still salaried workers even during the pandemic.
"My statements during the hearing yesterday was not in any manner meant to be an affront to the hardworking middle class of the country," Villar said in a statement.
"I might have framed my questions and statements in such a manner that made it seem I was insensitive to the plight of the middle income sector. I am NOT. I am concerned and I lookout for the welfare of the middle income workers," she said.
"If I have offended anyone with my statements, I humbly apologize," the senator added.
Villar, the richest senator in the 18th Congress, acknowledged that "the middle class are the backbone of the Philippine economy."
"I recognize the workers’ contributions to the country and their families," she said.
The senator said her questions and statements were only meant "to clarify reports about the middle class workers who remain employed but have been included as among the beneficiaries" of the government's cash aid program during the pandemic.
"Congress has intended the SAP funds to benefit the poor and the unemployed. Lawmakers made sure that we were clear about the targeted beneficiaries of the cash assistance," she said.
"The workers who continue to receive their salaries during the quarantine were excluded as eligible beneficiaries because they did not lose their income even amid the strict quarantine setup," she added.
Last year, Villar also drew flak for telling people not to eat galunggong if they could not afford to buy what is known in the Philippines as the "poor man's fish."
The senator, who is married to the country's wealthiest man Manny Villar, had said she was not anti-poor, but was just suggesting that Filipinos should try other viands to avoid increasing the demand for galunggong, which was priced at about P300 per kilo last year.