Through spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the IATF also warned local officials against using the government’s aid program for politicking, saying they would not escape accountability for their actions.
Michael Varcas/File
Task Force says ‘can-affords’ excluded from COVID fund
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — “Can-affords” should not expect to get a share in the aid package for low-income families hardest hit by the enhanced community quarantine meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases said yesterday.

Through spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the IATF also warned local officials against using the government’s aid program for politicking, saying they would not escape accountability for their actions.

“If you are not an informal worker, do not insist on joining the program because our priority is the poor. Our countrymen should undergo self-assessment,” Nograles said at a televised briefing.

He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), with the help of security forces, would closely monitor the distribution of aid to sectors affected by the Luzon-wide lockdown. He said state auditors would also be on alert for possible abuses in the delivery of assistance.

The government has unveiled a P200-billion social aid package designed to help 18 million families and displaced workers cope with the impact of the lockdown which began on March 17 and is initially slated for lifting on April 13. The amount of cash aid ranges from P5,000 to P8,000, depending on the minimum wage in the region where the beneficiaries are located.

Last week, President Duterte barred politicians from distributing assistance coming from the national government, saying he has received complaints about officials taking a cut from the donations.

“If there are discrepancies, if we receive reports, we would investigate immediately. We have the full strength of the Office of the President, including the Anti-Red Tape Act and the Presidential Anti-Corruption (Commission). Of course the Ombudsman is also there although that’s separate from the Office of the President,” Nograles said.

“If there are discrepancies or cheating, we have mechanisms for that,” he added.

Nograles also clarified that senior citizens receiving pension from sources other than DSWD are excluded from the social amelioration program. He said the cash aid prioritizes the elderly who belong to low-income families.

“The first criteria is low-income families and among low-income families, priority is senior citizens,” Nograles said.

He also said beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which provides allowances to poor families who send their children to school or avail themselves of state health services, won’t be given social amelioration cards because they were already considered in the list of beneficiaries of the cash aid.

“Since the 4Ps beneficiaries are part of the national database and they are receiving help through their cash cards, they are no longer included in the list of those who will be given social amelioration cards of the LGU,” he said.

Nograles said the DSWD has transferred money to the cash cards of the beneficiaries of the 4Ps.

The 4Ps beneficiaries with cash cards in Ilocos, Cagayan, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao received their emergency cash subsidies last Friday. The rest of the regions received their cash assistance last Saturday and Sunday.

Out of the total 4Ps beneficiaries, more than 3.6 million with cash cards nationwide were provided with the subsidy amounting to more than P16.3 billion, Nograles said. Beneficiaries of 4Ps who do not have cash card may download their funds from DSWD regional offices. 

“Many (agencies) are on guard and of course we will check the list of beneficiaries,” Nograles said.

“If you don’t get caught now, you would eventually get caught once this (pandemic) is over... Everything will be audited... If there are irregularities... if you don’t give aid to people just because they are not your allies or for whatever reason... do not think that you won’t get caught,” he added.

Displaced workers may also count on aid package from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) if the government opts to extend the quarantine.

“If the quarantine is extended, DOLE will recommend the extension of our cash assistance program and I am sure the interagency task force will also approve it,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said at a press briefing.

According to Bello, close to 200,000 formal and informal workers have already received cash assistance from DOLE. – With Mayen Jaymalin

COVID-19 INTER-AGENCY TASK FORCE KARLO NOGRALES
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