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Opinion

Socially distant social amelioration program

TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag - The Freeman

As I start to write this, it is 8:38 a.m. of Sunday, May 3, here in Carigara, Leyte. By the time you will be reading this on Monday, May 4, I hope every qualified Filipino who is supposed to get anywhere from P5,000 to P8,000 in cash aid from the government's COVID-19-induced social amelioration program shall have received what had been promised him.

 There is good reason for my hoping. As I began writing this, I know of at least two barangays in this town whose intended beneficiaries have yet to see the color of the money government promised them. And if there are at least two, then there could be more barangays being made to wait for what everybody had been told was emergency aid.

Certainly there are many more barangays, municipalities and cities nationwide that are suffering the same fate of delayed distribution of the social amelioration program aid. Much of the delay has been blamed on the screening of rightful beneficiaries. I am beginning to suspect, however, that screening is not the real reason for the delay. I think it is corruption that is creating a bottleneck somewhere.

Let us revisit the situation. After record time Congress passed the so-called Bayanihan Law which grants President Duterte emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The law went into effect March 25. The social amelioration program swiftly kicked in after that. After all, P200 billion was quickly made available to fund it. When it comes to accessing money, no emergency could have been more real.

Who to give was easy. The crisis spares no one, right? Duterte himself said everybody will get aid. This was echoed by Speaker Alan Cayetano. In fact the target beneficiaries were placed at 18 million families. Multiply 18 million families by the average number of family members which is five and you have 90 million people, or almost the entire Philippine population. Duterte and Cayetano were not far off when they said everybody will get aid.

But then P200 million is a lot of money to just give away. What about Sir? What about Ma’am? So in the screening it was made pretty difficult for many people to get any aid. Those enrolled in 4Ps will not get the full amount because they are already getting 4Ps aid, never mind if the budget for SAP is a full P5,000 to P8,000 which is an entirely different animal from the 4Ps budget. Where the difference goes I can only surmise.

A neighbor, well into his 70s, was disqualified. Why? Because he is a P1,000/month pensioner. For having peanuts every month, he is being starved for the duration of the crisis. By the way, as of November 2019, a little less than four million families were enrolled in 4Ps. Subtract the four million 4Ps families from SAPs 18 million target families and you get a difference of 14 million families. Who are these families?

There is a need to know who make up these remaining 14 million families because from what I know, non-4Ps people are being disqualified left and right for no other reason than that they have a house bigger than next door or they have somebody working overseas, which is silly because OFWs themselves qualify for aid. A top DSWD official said incidences of corruption should be reported. The guy does not know what he is talking about.

SOCIAL AMELIORATION PROGRAM
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