We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individuals, oppose the decision to limit the delivery of the second tranche of the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) to areas that remain under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). In a press briefing on 12 May 2020, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said:  Dahil limitado lang po ang pondong binigay ng Kongreso,’yong bibigyan po sa second tranche ay ‘yon lamang mga nananatili sa ECQ

Taking back the commitment to provide a second tranche of emergency relief to 18 million households is a betrayal of public trust.  This severely weakens the government’s credibility, and takes away the collective strength needed to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

We emphasize that the move to limit the number of cash transfer beneficiaries is unlawful and goes against the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act approved last March 24, 2020. Section 4 of the law gives the President the option to adopt the emergency powers enumerated in the section. Since the President has adopted these, he is mandated to follow Congress’s prescriptions regarding the scope of these powers.

In this regard, Section 4(c) of the law clearly mandates the government to provide a subsidy ranging from PhP5,000 to PhP8,000 to 18 million low-income households for the next two months. Limiting the second tranche would be a violation of this provision.

Furthermore, Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, s. 2020 of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other agencies specifically states that in cases of programs with insufficient funding, the national government shall augment the fund to ensure that each family receives the prescribed assistance of PhP5,000 to PhP8,000. For the SAP in particular, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already released a notice of cash allocation to the DSWD worth PhP 200 billion as a means to fully implement the program.

The reality is that the 4P and non-4P households will still need the assistance from the government even if they live in an area where the ECQ will be lifted. The pandemic has caused massive economic disruption and job loss all over the country, and its effects will persist beyond the time where any form of quarantine is relaxed or lifted.

We also note that providing direct cash to poor is a good stimulus for economic recovery. The cash transfers provide these poor households with resources to purchase basic goods and necessities. This helps increase aggregate demand, and their consumption will also provide support to local farmers and fishermen.

It is also worth emphasizing that the PhP5,000 to PhP 8,000 subsidy would solely cover the food threshold of vulnerable sectors. Taking away this assistance will have the greatest effect on children. The government must do its part to protect them and ensure that we do not lose a generation due to extreme hunger.

Of course, such stimulus necessitates borrowing, given the current crisis we are facing. However, the government should not be afraid of increasing borrowing and increasing the deficit as long as spending is targeted to beat COVID-19 and facilitate economic recovery.

Past economic shocks all over the world have shown us that fiscal timidity only makes recovery longer. Given the structural reforms that the government has put in place, such as the recently passed tax reform laws, it must in fact show confidence in having a bold fiscal stimulus.

Taking into account the government’s pride in being ranked among the most financially resilient emerging economies, it has the space for bolder fiscal spending that will yield multiple dividends in terms of social amelioration, economic stimulus, health, and political stability.

 

Signatories (as of 12:00pm, May 18)  

Organizations:

  1. Action for Economic Reforms
  2. Woman Action Network in Development (WAND)
  3. #COVID19PH Citizens’ Budget Tracker
  4. Life Haven Center for Independent Living
  5. Unang Hakbang Foundation Inc
  6. The Oikonomos Nexus
  7. Coalition of Services of the Elderly
  8. PUP Students’ Party for Equality and Advancement of Knowledge (PUP SPEAK)
  9. PUP Sentral na Konseho ng Mag-aaral (PUP – SKM)
  10. PUP Office of the Student Regent (PUP- OSR)
  11. PUP Artists Guild for Excellence (PAGE)
  12. Entrepreneurial Students Society (ESS)
  13. PUP College of Science Student Council (PUP CS – SC)
  14. PUP College of Business Administration Student Council (PUP CBA – SC)
  15. PUP College of Architecture and Fine Arts Student Council (PUP CAFA – SC)
  16. PUP College of Political Science and Public Administration Student Council (PUP CPSPA – SC)
  17. College of Education Student Council (PUP COED SC)
  18. College of Accountancy and Finance Student Council (PUP CAF SC)
  19. College of Tourism and Hotel Reataurant Management Student Council
  20. (PUP CTHTM SC)
  21. PUP College of Social Science and Development Student Council (PUP CSSD – SC)
  22. College of Human Kinetics Student Council (PUP CHK – SC)
  23. College of Computer and Information Science Student Council (PUP CCIS – SC)
  24. College of Arts and Letters Student Council (PUP CAL-SC)
  25. Institute of Technology Student Council (PUP I-Tech SC)
  26. Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Development and Freedom (WISDOM)
  27. Solidarity for Environmental Education, Protection and Development Network (SEED network)
  28. PUP Parañaque Student Council
  29. PUP San Juan Student Council
  30. PUP Sto Tomas Batangas Student Council

Individuals:

  1. Beltran Basares, President, Pambayang Ugnayan ng Mangingisda ng Gumaca (PUMASAG)
  2. Benjamin C. Romero, Chairman, Rural Advocates for Community Empowerment and Services (RACES) Inc.
  3. Manuel Odi, Chairman, Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magsasakan sa Niyugan (KASAMA-NIUGAN)
  4. Micah Villaverde, Chairman, Gumaca Transport Service Coop.
  5. Noel Alpay, President, Pambayang Ugnayan ng Mangingisda ng Perez (PUMAREZ)
  6. Jessica Reyes-Cantos
  7. Jenina Joy Chavez
  8. Jerik Cruz
  9. Buenaventura Dargantes
  10. Jo-Ann Latuja Diosana
  11. Eddie Dorotan
  12. Laurence Go
  13. Yusof Ledesma
  14. Alberto A. Lim
  15. Michael Ocampo
  16. Victoria Viterbo Quimbo
  17. Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III
  18. Maria Fe Villamejor-Mendoza
  19. Florencia Dorotan
  20. Menandro Berana
  21. Clarissa Militante
  22. Mary Ann Manahan
  23. Mary Joyce Esguerra Martinez
  24. Elaira Lasap
  25. Erica Navelgas