For the poor only? What about the others?
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - August 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Time and time again we are reminded by our leaders of the great words of President Ramon Magsaysay, arguably the most popular and reputedly the most honest of Philippine presidents. The Guy said that “those who have less in life must have more in law”. This policy statement is an accepted philosophical equalizer of sorts. In our society, there are theoretically different economic layers but for purposes of this column, let us do away with laborious technical characterizations and just proceed to label them as the rich, the middle class, and the poor. No matter what financial vagaries assault the rich, they can survive with much still to spare. On their own strength, the wealthy have their own resources to wiggle out of fiscal troubles. They hardly need the law to prop them up.

The families in the middle echelon of our society have reached their status from a combination of uncommon skill, indefatigable industry, uncanny intelligence to distinguish the necessary from the wasteful, and the foresight to prepare for the future. In the face of emotional challenges, they remain strong having been stabilized by various experiences. When economic crisis comes, they draw from their reserve while innovating to meet the problem. They hope though that government provides them some tools to fight with.

The poor among us mostly live on a day-to-day basis although many barely earn enough to survive each day. But it is sad to note that when we get more than what we need for the day, we are quick to indulge in parties or spend in unnecessary items.

We take the simplistic description of our socio-economic spectrum above in relation to the words of President Magsaysay. When this pandemic struck, the government announced its help to the so-called “poorest among the poor”. Local government units, after approving substantive ordinances, gave various material aid such as few kilos of rice, sardines, and others. On the other hand, the national government, after approving a huge budgetary enactment worth billions of pesos, released cash to those listed in the 4P’s system and the Social Amelioration Program. According to the records of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, there were about 18 million Filipino families who received government assistance. Translated into the usual statistical calculations, about 80 million mouths were fed by those aids. All of them belonging to the category we identified earlier as poor. I believe that no rich or middle class family ever received any form of similar government aid. This is because “those who have less in life must have more in law”.

Have we considered that the biggest sources of government revenues are the rich and the middle class? In all probabilities, they contributed the largest portions of the appropriations made to benefit the poor. In short, we take the contributions from the rich and the middle class and give all to the poor. But, COVID-19 strikes the rich, the middle class, and the poor without regard to their socio-economic stature. In our constitution, no person is supposed to be denied the equal protection of the law. So why did President Duterte say that he will buy COVID-19 vaccines when already available and give to the poor only?

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