President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to detain politicians who will engage in corruption amid the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health crisis, stressing that the public should never be deceived especially in these times.
In a televised address Monday night, Duterte said he would not tolerate corruption, embezzlement, hoarding, and other crimes that could deter the government’s heightened efforts to curb the pandemic.
“I am not a cruel man but if there are police reports, I will order your detention until the COVID-19 pandemic ends,” he said in mix of English and Filipino.
He said he would also suspend national and local officials involved in politicking.
“If you engage in politicking and I hear about it, I will suspend you on the spot.”
He said that people tasked with distributing the money, food, and relief goods should do their work “to a tee” or risk being detained.
“There’s a crisis and you would no that…you really deserve to be jailed,” he said.
Last week, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año urged the public to report local officials who required their constituents to present their quarantine passes or voter’s identification before they were given food assistance or allowed to buy food outside.
He said requiring a quarantine pass or voter’s ID is not part of the guidelines under the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
“That’s not right. That’s what you call self-promoting barangay captains. Report their names, which barangay and we will take action,” he said.
He asked barangay officials to think twice about how they treat their constituents as it would be their basis for electing new officials during the next elections.
He also reminded local officials against going overboard while enforcing policies, especially in restricting the movement of vehicles carrying basic necessities such as food, medicines, and other health-related items.
In the same address, the President also said no Filipino would go hungry as a result of the lockdown, saying the government would make up for the loss of economic opportunities by launching “the largest and widest social protection program in our country’s history.”
“We have allotted P200 billion for low-income households who are badly affected by the current crisis,” he said.
He was referring to a provision under the Bayanihan to Heal as One law (Republic Act 11469) that allows government to realign PHP275 billion from the national budget in an effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the country.
Of this amount, around P200 billion is expected to be used for the emergency subsidy plan for the 18 million low-income households.
These low-income households will be receiving financial assistance between P5,000 and P8,000 a month over two months.
The remaining P75 billion will be used for “health-related initiatives and other services.”
He said this amount will be distributed to those in the informal sectors living on day-to-day subsistence or “no-work, no pay” arrangements.
Despite these available funds, Duterte said he is also counting on middle- and upper-class Filipinos to support the less privileged during the health crisis.
“I still count on everyone to also look out after their fellowmen --- their countrymen. To those who have more in life, I implore you to share in the cost of taking care of the less fortunate and keeping our society intact,” he said.
He also appealed to the private sector to contribute in dealing with this national emergency.
“We implore employers to do their part in protecting the welfare of the millions of Filipino households that belong to the formal sector and depend on their employers for continuous livelihood,” he said.
Besides the subsidy for low-income households, he said government will also provide a recovery package—especially to micro, small, and medium enterprises—to help deal with the economic effects of this pandemic.
He said his economic team is currently drafting the guidelines.
He also assured farmers and fisherfolk of quick response measures to help them during the crisis while at the same time ensuring food productivity, availability, and sufficiency during the period of the pandemic.
“To our farmers and our fisherfolk: We have not forgotten you," he said.
He also vowed to ensure the unhampered flow of cargo to maintain a steady supply of food, goods and other essential supplies and items.
Currently, a price freeze on commodities is already in effect as well as measures to curtail hoarding and profiteering, he added.
On top of this assistance, he said food packs and essential non-food items are also being distributed to local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.
He said that areas in the Visayas and Mindanao are receiving similar assistance.
In related developments:
* Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the President has secured a pledge from Vietnam that it would honor its commitment to export rice to the Philippines. The IATF on Tuesday recommended to the President the importation of 300,000 metric tons of rice as a contingency halfway through the Luzon lockdown. The importation will be done through a government-to-government arrangement, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
* Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said workers with reduced or no income due to the COVID-19 lockdown can go straight to the Department of Labor and Employment for a one-time cash aid if their employers refuse to seek help for them. Bello said workers can contact the agency directly to get the one-time P5,000 cash assistance. With PNAREAD: Duterte announces ‘largest, widest’ PH social protection programREAD: Rody details response to pandemic
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