Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to reconsider its decision to suspend the cash transfer programs to ease out the burden of its poor beneficiaries during the national public health crisis.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development Committee, said she is disappointed with the DSWD’s decision done at a time when poor families depend on cash transfer programs during the coronavirus quarantine period.
“As soon as we learned that community quarantine is the only way to arrest the spread of COVID-19, we already know that the poor, who depend on their daily toil for their sustenance, will be most affected,” she said her recent Dispatch from Crame 740.
“[The] DSWD should have made sure that programs to ensure that our countrymen will not go hungry are implemented in spite of the quarantine,” she added.
Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista ordered the temporary suspension of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens and Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) and other projects.
According to him, the temporary suspension is aimed at protecting the poor beneficiaries from being exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) which has resulted, thus far, in the death of 17 individuals and the infection of 202 individuals.
Last March 17, however, Mr. Duterte placed the country under state of calamity to allow local government units (LGUs), especially those affected by coronavirus outbreak, to tap its funds to provide basic services to its people, among others.
De Lima, who is the principal author and sponsor of a law institutionalizing the 4Ps, pointed out that is the poor and the marginalized sectors of our society who bear the brunt of the Luzon-wide imposition of enhanced community quarantine.
“The scenes in the checkpoints and public transport stations last Monday should serve as a sobering reminder that many of our countrymen would sooner risk their lives against COVID-19 rather than fail to provide for their families,” she said.
“Our government, under the principle of parens patriae (parent of the nation), should ensure that we will provide for those who will not be able to provide for themselves during this time of crisis,” she added.
Instead of suspending the cash transfer programs for the poor, the lady Senator from Bicol asked the DSWD to expand its social welfare programs to help in alleviating the sufferings of the most vulnerable sectors, especially among daily wage earners.
“When disaster strikes, the government stands as the only refuge of the lowliest members of society. I implore the DSWD to use this mindset and think of innovative ways to continue with, and even expand, our social welfare programs,” she said.
Enacted into law last April, the conditional cash transfer, also referred to as 4Ps, provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, improve their health, nutrition, and access to education of their children.
Under the law, farmers, fishermen, and those in the informal sectors and in disadvantaged areas are automatically included in the government’s standardized targeting by the household beneficiary. (30)