May 20, 2020

Yesterday, May 18, Senator Cynthia Villar questioned why the middle class should receive cash aid from the government even though they earn salaries during the quarantine. Her statements have since received backlash from the public, saying that such remarks are “insensitive.” The senator, this afternoon, issued an apology to and clarified her statements probing the subsidy assistance program (SAP).

During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on COVID-19 pandemic response, Villar asked the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) why families belonging to the middle class are included in the social amelioration program (SAP), which is intended to help low-income families and no work, no pay workers. 

Why are middle-class families included in the cash aid program?

Villar brought up that the government allotted financial help to 18 million families or 82 percent of the country’s population when only 59 percent are actually low-income families eligible to receive aid.

“So bakit bibigyan ’yung [middle-class]? Eh may trabaho sila, kahit lockdown, nagsu-sweldo sila. Sa gobyerno, kung employed by the government. Kung employed naman ng local, ng mga private, nagsu-sweldo din sila,” Villar asked.

“Kaya nahihirapan ’yung mga companies kasi they have to pay the salaries even if there’s no business,” the Senator added.

“Hindi ko ma-accept ang numbers na ’yon kasi nade-deprive ang mahihirap dahil binibigyan pati ang middle class,” she added.

Under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, a total of 18 million low-income families—those who are most affected by the pandemic—will receive a cash subsidy from P5,000 to P8,000 depending on prevailing regional minimum wage rates, for two months during the COVID-19 crisis.

An estimate of the informal sector

According to Villar, if the data of the DSWD is based on the 2015 census, only 60 percent of the total population are eligible for government assistance.

“How did you determine na 18 million? That’s 82 percent of the population, ’di naman sila mahirap ah. May mga trabaho sila, nagsu-sweldo sila kahit lockdown,” Villar further asked DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista during the hearing.

To which Bautista explained that LGUs are tasked to identify the beneficiaries as they are more knowledgeable of the status of the families in their areas.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua explained that this is based on population projections, which show that there are now 24.6 million families in the country compared to the 22 million families in 2015 when the last census was conducted.

Chua concluded that the 2020 estimate is now 24.6 million, of which 18 million are considered to be low-income, “basically working in the informal sector, no work, no pay. That is the basis for the 18 million.”  

Villar, nonetheless, asked the DSWD to respond to her query in writing.

Villar’s humble apology 

After receiving backlash for such statements, the senator issued an apology saying, “My statements during the hearing yesterday was not in any manner meant to be an affront to the hardworking middle class of the country. I might have framed my questions and statements in such a manner that made it seem I was insensitive to the plight of the middle income sector. I am NOT.”

“I am concerned and I look out for the welfare of the middle income workers. If I have offended anyone with my statements, I humbly apologize,” she added.

The senator then acknowledged the contribution of the middle class to the country’s economy. “The middle class are the backbone of the Philippine economy and I recognize the workers’ contributions to the country and their families,” she said.

“The intention of my questions yesterday was to clarify reports about the middle class workers who remain employed but have been included as among the beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the government,” the senator went on.

Villar pointed out that Congress had intended the SAP funds to benefit the poor and the unemployed, and that lawmakers made sure that it was clear who the targeted beneficiaries of the cash assistance were.

“The workers who continue to receive their salaries during the quarantine were excluded as eligible beneficiaries because they did not lose their income even amid the strict quarantine setup,” she added.




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TAGS: bayanihan to heal as one act Cynthia Villar low-income middle class middle wage no work no pay sap subsidy assistance program