“It is obvious that the health crisis that is the COVID-19 has become a major economic crisis. Many of our kababayans have no means of livelihood and have been locked in under community quarantine. Thus, bayanihan in its genuine meaning of pagtululungan is urgently needed.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIIL
MANILA – Geraline Pamintuan, 36, is worried because the cash aid she received from the government has already been spent for their food and other needs.
Pamintuan, a resident of Bagong Silangan, Quezon City and a mother of three, is a 4Ps beneficiary. She received P6,700 from the government’s social amelioration program in the last week of March. Although grateful for the government’s assistance, she said it was not enough to cover their needs, especially because her husband cannot work due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
With limited government aid, several cause-oriented groups began conducting relief operations to the communities affected of the ECQ. However, these efforts may be hampered as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is now requiring organizations to secure certification from local government units (LGUs).
According to Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, organizations would be needing certification before they can pass through quarantine checkpoints and eventually conduct relief operations. He said that relief operations should be properly coordinated with the LGUs before the distribution proper.
Former Social Welfare and Development Secretary and spokesperson of Citizens Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (Cure COVID), Judy Taguiwalo said that this requirement is just another barrier to bring help where it’s urgently needed.
“It is obvious that the health crisis that is the COVID-19 has become a major economic crisis. Many of our kababayans have no means of livelihood and have been locked in under community quarantine. Thus, bayanihan in its genuine meaning of pagtululungan is urgently needed,” Taguiwalo said in a statement.
“Efforts of the private sector including civil society organizations and individuals should be encouraged and not be tied up by unnecessary bureaucratic requirements,” she added.
Barring progressive groups to deliver relief
“We see potential problems with DILG’s reported requirement of an LGU certification. The order starts from a position of mistrust of people who want to help. While it may be true that there will be opportunists who might use relief operations for selfish purposes, majority of those who help do so because they really just want to help. Government should not make it hard for them,” Taguiwalo said.
Peasant group Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women also views such move as restrictive, especially with the recent arrest of former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
“This is to prevent the progressive groups from helping and reaching out to the many families that were neglected by the government,” Zenaida Soriano, Amihan chairperson, said.
Soriano said that relief operations and community kitchens benefit families of farmers and urban poor affected by the lockdown. She added that more than 500 families were already provided assistance through the Support the Food Security Frontliners relief mission, Oplan Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis in areas of Cagayan, Isabela, Bataan, Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and Cavite.
Taguiwalo also cited efforts of teachers bringing personal protective equipment to health workers; unions bringing food to stranded construction workers; farmers sending vegetables to urban poor communities; women’s groups cooking for drivers; individuals preparing packed meals for frontliners; among other forms of assistance.
She said that these initiatives of different groups should be welcomed and encouraged.
Violating people’s right to food
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, meanwhile, called the DILG’s order as absurd and in violation of the people’s right to food. The group also believes that this new requirement is vulnerable to politicking, “especially when the target beneficiaries are critical of the incumbent local officials.”
Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson and also former Anakpawis Party-list former representative, said the order also violates the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), of which the country is a signatory.
Hicap said this treaty “upholds the people’s right to food, as pillar of the right to adequate standard of living.”
DILG also threatened to file charges against “unauthorized relief volunteers.”
In reaction, former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said, “In the midst of a public health emergency, the government is having all the time in the world to impede humanitarian and charitable acts of civil society and non-government groups. What kind of priorities does our government have?”
Casilao called it “calamitous and inhumane,” adding that “the restriction would cost the lives of the needy families who are enduring the impacts of the enhanced community quarantine.”
Based on the recent report of President Duterte released on April 27, seven million beneficiaries under social amelioration program have received assistance from the government. The figure is 38 percent of the government’s 18-million target beneficiaries under SAP.
Meanwhile, should this order by the DILG pushes through, Taguiwalo said that “the LGUs must immediately put in place a clear and easily-accessible facility for the release of the required certification which should not in any way hamper relief distribution.”
“After all, the more help reaches the communities, the better it is for our people to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Taguiwalo said. (With reports from Ritche T. Salgado)