President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday warned “opportunists” amid the government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Duterte made the warning as he acknowledged during his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the implementation of the social amelioration program (SAP), which intends to give financial aid to needy Filipinos, is “not perfect.”
“Admittedly, our implementation of the social amelioration program was not perfect. And some opportunists turned crisis into opportunity. We will catch up with you sooner than you think,” he told the nation.
Under the SAP, the national government distributes temporary cash assistance ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 to low-income families to help them cope with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Some 18 million poor households have received the first tranche of emergency subsidies under the SAP.
However, only 12 million of the 18 million existing beneficiaries will benefit from the implementation of the second phase of the program. They will be joined by five million wait-listed beneficiaries.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the lead agency tasked to implement the SAP, is eyeing the completion of the disbursement of the second wave of financial aid to indigent families by the end of July.
“The profiteers, over-pricers, and corrupt felons must be laughing while they stash their dirty monies. But not for long. They cannot outrun the long arm of the law,” he said.
Duterte said dealers and purveyors of illegal drugs who are “hiding in the shadow of Covid-19” have stepped up their activities.
He noted that the amount of shabu valued at millions of pesos seized during police operations amid the health crisis “speak(s) volumes of the enormity and weight of the problem that we bear.”
The President also said “the corrupt, the grafters, and the influence peddlers” are also taking advantage of the fear and confusion that the new coronavirus generates.
“The financial and material assistance of the government to the unemployed, the sick, and the destitute running into billions of pesos, are not spared from corruption and ineptitude. Even the donations from well-meaning private persons are skimmed before reaching their intended beneficiaries. It is like snatching food from the mouths of babes,” he said.
Duterte also bared that he had received reports that some public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers were unable to receive cash assistance from the government.
“Public utility drivers were given assistance through the ‘Pantawid Pasada’ Program. There are complaints that some drivers did not receive any assistance at all. I have directed the DSWD and DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) to look into this,” he said.
Duterte assured that his administration would not stop addressing the health crisis and helping the Filipinos move to the “new normal”.
“All of us in government assure you that we will not stop until we get things right and better. I know that many of are worried not only about health and safety but our ability to move around and ride public transportation,” he said.