Cayetano to gov’t: Make it easier for people to get assistance

Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday appealed to the national government to make it easier for people to access pandemic assistance programs included in the P5 trillion national budget for 2022, even as the election campaign season officially starts this week.

“Please make it easier for our kababayans to access the funds in DSWD, DTI, DOH, Department of Agriculture and all the other agencies,” Cayetano said in a live video posted on his official Facebook page February 7, 2022.

“Bilyun-bilyon pong pera ang siguradong nilagay po dyan sa P5 trillion budget, para nga kahit anong mangyari dito sa ups and down ng COVID, lahat ng klaseng assistance nandyan po sa 5 trillion budget,” he added.

(Billions of pesos have surely been earmarked in that P5-trillion budget, so that whatever happens with the ups and downs of COVID, every form of assistance can be made available to people.)

Various welfare programs were included in the 2022 national budget, including at least P21.36 billion earmarked for assistance to indigent patients. Congress allocated P5 billion for the government’s social amelioration program, and set aside P25 billion for pension payouts to indigent senior citizens.

The Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development has a budget of P39.87 billion, while the Department of Trade and Industry holds P1.5 billion to be used for assistance to small businesses hit by the pandemic.

Cayetano had previously pointed out that it would have been better to lump all these assistance programs under one implementing agency so that disbursements could be made faster and easier to track.

He also reminded the Commission on Audit (COA) to allow state agencies to maximize their budget allocations without fear of being flagged by government auditors.

“We need to balance y’ung transparency and making sure na tama y’ung paggamit ng pondo, but we (also) have to make sure na nagagamit talaga, kasi bale wala din po kung nandyan lang po sa bangko o nasa mga departamento at hindi nagagamit,” the lawmaker said.

(We need to balance transparency and making sure that funds are used properly, but we also have to make sure that they are actually used, because it would be of no use if those funds are just parked in banks and the departments and not used.)

The former House Speaker emphasized that Comelec campaign rules bar candidates from participating even in privately-funded aid programs, which is why the government must be more urgent about easing people’s access to pandemic assistance funds.

“Hindi lang po ako, pero lahat po ng mga public servants na tumatakbo ay hindi na po pwede tumulong during this time,” he said.

(Not just me, but all other public servants running for the elections will not be able to provide assistance during this time.)

He made the comments the same day his office wrapped up two financial assistance programs that provided cash grants to families and small businesses that were hit by the pandemic.

The Sampung Libong Pag-asa and Sari-saring Pag-asa financial assistance programs, which were both initiated by Cayetano, ended Monday after almost a year of operations sustained through private donations.

Since its launch in May 2021, the Sampung Libong Pag-asa program has provided cash grants of P10,000 each to 15,727 families across the country, and has served as a working model for Cayetano’s 10K Ayuda initiative of broad-based economic stimulus to aid in the country’s pandemic recovery.

Meanwhile, the Sari-saring Pag-asa cash aid program has given grants of P3,500 each to 17,433 small business owners all over the country.

Together, the two programs provided assistance to more than 33,000 beneficiaries nationwide, representing 20 of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic.

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