Local government units who claim to have more eligible beneficiaries of the emergency cash aid than what was estimated by the national government should find ways to finance their needs and reimburse these later on, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.
"Pakiusap naman natin sa mga local official, abonohan ninyo 'yung kulang at saka natin singilin 'yung DSWD. Katulong ninyo kami na maniningil diyan at kung ano ang pondong kailangan, kung kailangan kaming gumawang batas para diyan, gagawin namin," Sotto said in a radio interview Tuesday.
"Wala na ngang cap sa mga calamity fund, gamitin ninyo lang kahit anong pondo muna, di ba? Hindi maibabalik 'yung buhay pero 'yung pera, maibabalik 'yan, kikitain ng gobyerno 'yan," he added.
Sotto has been calling on the executive department to relax the budget rules amid the health emergency.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, around 18 million poor families nationwide shall benefit from monthly emergency subsidies ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 for two months. The government earlier earmarked P200 billion for the said assistance.
All LGUs shall likewise be authorized to utilize more than 5% of the amount allocated for their calamity fund subject to additional funding and support from the national government.
A P30.8-billion grant has also been released by the Department of Budget and Management to financially capacitate cities and municipalities for COVID-19 response.
While the said one-time grant may be used to fund COVID-19 programs, it shall not cover any form of cash assistance.
Further, Senator Joel Villanueva agreed that the local government leaders should be given some flexibility to efficiently roll out assistance to their constituents.
"I am recommending an area based approach for assistance distribution. I think the government is getting bogged down by generation of target household list. We know that in certain areas like Smokey Mountain in Payatas. All households are poor. Let’s not wait for the list," Villanueva said in a message to GMA News Online.
"We have to give LGUs some flexibility. If there is fraud, we penalize. But now, we need to be efficient in the distribution of assistance," he added.
According to President Rodrigo Duterte's third weekly report to Congress, "local government units which identified additional eligible family beneficiaries can submit their lists to the DSWD for validation."
Several local government leaders previously complained that they are being caught in a muddle because their respective databases show that more of their constituents are in need of cash aid compared to the national government's estimated 18 million families. — Dona Magsino/RSJ, GMA News