MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday urged the national government to extend aid to middle-class families who also lost income during the lockdown in Luzon and other parts of the country to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
He made the statement following an earlier appeal by Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla for government to not only provide cash aid to poor families but also to middle-income households that lost sources of income under the community quarantine.
"Even the middle-income [families] need help. Nawalan din naman sila ng pagkakitaan, nabawasan din ang kanilang source of income," he said.
(They lost livelihood, their source of income has decreased.)
"There should be no social discrimination at this time because everyone, each Filipino, need help," he said.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, poor families are entitled to receive a monthly stipend of between P5,000 and P8,000 for each of 2 months.
Middle-income earners are not part of the initial list of beneficiaries even if they, too, are affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. earlier suggested that the government should cover more beneficiaries beyond the 18 million identified households and plan first for an initial disbursement, before going ahead with a second wave of aid.
"After this initial release, then we work on the next wave. If we do this, mas marami ang maaabot ng tulong. Roughly, doble ng bilang. Then, tsaka i-operationalize 'yung second wave," he said.
(If we do this, the aid can reach more people. Roughly, double the count. Then that's when we operationalize the second wave.)
The Senate President said the government should streamline its databases and coordinate with private sector relief efforts to avoid duplications in the list of beneficiaries, noting that all Filipinos should be "equally entitled to public and private assistance."
Some recipients of government aid also receive donations from the private sector, while others remain empty-handed, he said.
"I totally agree that we should help the poor deal with the current situation, but we should also provide assistance to the other sectors of our society," he said.
In his appeal earlier this week, Remulla said even those employed in the formal sector in his province are on the verge of starving due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Some middle-income workers have also expressed their dismay on social media, saying that the government should not deprive them of aid as the officials have been using their taxes to give regular dole-outs for the poor.
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to find more sources of funds to deliver aid to middle-class families as the P200 billion fund on hand could only cover the "poorest of the poor."