"It makes sense to take steps about overcrowded communities and thereby decongest Metro Manila."
We are inundated with cries for help from our fellow Filipinos who belong to the poorest of the poor and have not until now received any cash assistance under the Social Amelioration Program. It’s not surprising that we hear news reports that the SAP has not reached those who actually need it most.
There is no question about the noble intent of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act that provides for, among others, the funding of the SAP. However, we wish to remind those in charge with its implementation, particularly the Department of Social Welfare and Development, of the need to speed up the distribution of the cash assistance to deserving beneficiaries.
Labor experts say up to 1.8 million workers have been displaced by the Enhanced Community Quarantine, particularly in Metro Manila and surrounding suburbs. Countless small- and-medium-scale businesses have closed due to immense losses since the lockdown began abruptly in March.
In connection with our public service, through the ACT-CIS Party-list headed by Rep. Eric Yap and the Erwin Tulfo Center for Media and Public Assistance, we have witnessed widespread suffering with our own eyes.
This weekend, this heartbreaking story reached us: A 76-year-old man was thrown in jail for complaining at the barangay hall about not being included in the list of cash assistance from the Social Amelioration Program being implemented by the DSWD.
The poor, sickly-looking senior citizen is still languishing in jail in Barangay Ilais, San Isidro, Surigao del Norte as of this writing, awaiting the filing of criminal charges against him for alleged violation of Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan Act provisions on ECQ.
I can also understand the frustration on the part of the barangay officials who have to deal with insufficient funds to accommodate everyone.
But I don’t think the senior citizen could have hurt anybod,y no matter how loud he was complaining about not getting any help to appease his family’s hunger. Thank God he was not shot dead. I hope the poor old man gets a reprieve for humanitarian reasons.
In an interview over PTV4/Radyo Pilipinas, DILG Usec. RJ Echiverri said he would refer the matter to the DILG regional office.
Also just recently, another senior citizen literally died from hunger while he waited in line for relief goods for hours in Nabua, Camarines Sur. The 67-year-old man had to do it himself because his three sons could not return home from Manila.
We are hoping and praying not to encounter any more similar stories.
Meanwhile, Senator Bong Go is pushing for the full implementation of the Balik Probinsya program to help resolve the public health crisis caused by the global pandemic novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
Balik Probinsya, however, must be complemented with job opportunities and other livelihood in the provinces with the help of both the national government, the LGUs and, of course, the private sector. Otherwise, Balik-Probinsya will be just another failed DSWD program.
It makes sense to take steps about overcrowded communities and thereby decongest Metro Manila teeming with a daytime population of 15 million, with workers from neighboring provinces.
As we’ve said here all along, enforcing lockdowns by itself will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. In fact, it may have contributed in breeding a local epidemic due to overcrowding in households and communities where social distancing is almost an impossibility.
The key to flattening the curve is to step up mass testing, isolate the confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and treat them.
The authorities now face the challenge of arresting the COVID-19 epidemic in Quezon City, Cebu City, New Bilibid Prison, Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong, and other facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
There have also been reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in the National Center for Mental Health, also in Mandaluyong.
The coronavirus outbreak in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz, Cebu City, is reportedly spreading to nearby densely populated communities with nearly 200 residents reportedly infected. It is blamed on the overcrowding in the households and the delay in the mass testing for COVID-19.
In Quezon City, which accounts for the highest COVID-19 cases among the country’s localities, several barangays had to be completely sealed due to outbreak of the disease in the jampacked neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the same factor of overcrowding has contributed to the person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 among doctors, nurses and other health workers in the frontline.
It is indeed a welcome development that mass testing is now being conducted to seek out those who may be sick, bring them to isolation and treat them accordingly.
With more sensible and practical ECQ and GCQ guidelines, we can certainly hope for the flattening of the COVID-19 epidemiological curve and score more recoveries in the days to come.