So Much Good News in the House Even Amidst COVID-19
By Rose de la Cruz
Amidst the depressing news about rising number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and rising recoveries, there is so much good news in the House of Representatives based on the pronouncements of legislators.
For one, Rep. Raul Tupas (5th district, Iloilo) said he appreciates the swift action by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology at the Quezon City jail of isolating 21 detainees suspected of having COVID. The jail is now disinfecting and this action, he said, must be done in all prisons nationwide.
He said he hopes the BJMP would also assist financially the family of the COVID-struck detainee who died recently.
“Our jails and correctional facilities are highly congested. They have been incidents of infectious disease outbreaks in these facilities. They are vulnerable to COVID-19,” Tupas stressed.
“We also acknowledge the many kind-hearted organizations and LGUs for extending support and assistance such as hygiene care kits such as soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents aside from foodstuff to local jails and correctional facilities all over the country.
Detainees who have cases still pending in courts remain innocent until proven otherwise and until the finality of court judgment. They have not lost all their basic rights as citizens.
This is a humane call and a serious public health concern. Overcrowded jails and lack of sanitation poses a threat to inmates getting infected. An outbreak in our jail facilities will put greater strain to limited government resources and health personnel to contain.
Rep. Francisco Datol, of the Senior Citizen Partylist, said the elderly whose social pensions from 2019 and 6 months of 2020 will soon be released.
In a video message, Datol advised the seniors to await the announcement of actual disbursement. Indigent seniors get P500 per month in social pension, which were not released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development last year pending verification upon orders of the President.
In 2019, 3,796,791 indigent seniors were supposed to receive, but did not get, their pensions.
Meanwhile Rep. Lawrence Fortun (1st district Agusan del Norte) is asking the inter-agency task force on COVID and DSWD to include barangay health workers and tanods in the coverage of emergency subsidy program or the Social Amelioration Program.
Under the recently released Omnibus Guidelines, the exclusion of appointed government workers regardless of status of employment effectively excludes barangay health workers and barangay tanods who are receiving allowances way below the minimum wage, and yet, are right there on the ground and in the frontlines of our battle against Covid-19.
We know for a fact that our barangay health workers and all our barangay tanods receive only honoraria or allowances that are a far cry from regional minimum wage rates, Fortun added.
Right now, during this unprecedented crisis, they are right there in the forefront. The barangay health workers, recognized no less by the DOH for their critical role in this crisis, ensure the observance of health protocols in the communities. The barangay tanods are the frontline enforcers of regulations on entry, exit, quarantine passes, curfew. They’re risking their lives out there so that everybody is kept safe.
Our barangay health workers and barangay tanods should be exceptions to the exclusion of elective and appointive government employees and workers from the coverage of this emergency subsidy, he stressed.
Rep. Michael Romero, deputy speaker, asked the DSWD and the Department of Finance to use more recent statistical references aside from just the 2015 Census and expand the coverage of the 4Ps even as he expressed fear that poverty rate could return to at least 20 percent if response measures do not avert long-term severe economic dislocation.
He said unemployment could double in the first and second quarters of 2020 “if we are unable to geet people back to wok through whatever COVID-19 safe means. It is also crucial the 2020 census be conducted this year starting May 4, but given the current situation, it could be delayed, but it should not be postponed because Congress and the rest of government needs that census to properly decide on how to calibrate our COVID-19 measures and adjust the next national budgets accordingly,” Romero explained.
“As regards the clamor for aid for the lower-middle-income families, I call the attention of the DSWD and DOF to the recent findings of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies or PIDS, a very detailed study that can be used to come up with a rational estimate of how many lower-middle-class households there are in every city and town,” Romero added.
Romero reminded the DSWD and DILG to direct the LGUs to use the Social Amelioration Card form produced by the DSWD because that is needed for proper audit and accounting purposes.