Travesty of selective emergency aid
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 6, 2020 - 12:00am

When this whole brouhaha over the government's emergency cash assistance started, it wasn't supposed to become a brouhaha. It was meant to be a matter of course. The president said everybody would get P5,000 to P8,000 for two months depending on the prevailing wages in their respective regions. The speaker echoed the president. Everybody gets to share in the P200B emergency aid.

It wasn't difficult to believe the words of two of the top officials in the land. After all, everybody is affected by the coronavirus pandemic. And the target number of beneficiaries itself was 18 million families. Multiply 18 million by five, which is the average number of people in a Filipino family, and you get 90 million. With the country's population at 105 million, that is as close to being right on the nail with everybody as anyone could get.

But it is not President Duterte or Speaker Alan Cayetano who will distribute the money. Those tasked to distribute the money on the ground do not have the slightest intention of giving away P200B to just about any Jose, Pedro, or Juan. The aid is only for the poorest of the poor, or so they say, complete with the tears of crocodiles in their eyes.

And who are the poorest of the poor? The 4Ps enrollees, the distributors chorus. Plus the fisherfolk, farmfolk, oldfolk, and whoever else folk they can name, short of including folk singers. But most, if not all, of these folk are already enrolled as 4Ps beneficiaries. They are who and what the 4Ps is all about. They cannot be duplicated. They are already counted. And the 4Ps beneficiaries, as of November 2019, number only four million families.

Subtract four million 4Ps families, which already include the disadvantaged and marginalized, from the 18 million target beneficiaries and you get a difference of 14 million families. So just who are these families? Why are the aid distributors on the ground not identifying them? And since the budget is P5K to P8K but the 4Ps folk only get to have what they are already getting topped off to make it P5K or P8K, where goes the difference?

If only the word of the president had been followed, there would have been no ensuing problem. When you give everyone, there would have been no lists to follow, no forms to fill, no validations to make. Everybody would have been happy, including those from whose taxes the aid was made possible in the first place. And the aid would have come sooner and not make a big fat joke about it being an emergency assistance.

Right now, however, many still have not gotten any of the promised emergency aid. The growing fear is that, since the aid will be for two months, the undistributed aid for the first month might be held back long enough until it is time to distribute aid for the second month and the aid for the first month will, in all probability, just be forgotten.

But here is where this skewed distribution of selective emergency aid has become a real travesty. Many of those lucky enough to have already gotten their aid, the so-called poorest of the poor that government prioritized, are not buying necessities in this time of crisis. They are buying small appliances like DVDs or using the money for home improvement. In their small way, maybe they are probably just preempting the distributors.

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