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Villar apologizes for ‘middle class’ remarks, says she is not insensitive to plight of sector

Senator Cynthia Villar apologized on Wednesday for her remark that the middle class should not receive cash assistance from the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Villar said her intention was only to clarify reports about middle-income earners who are receiving emergency subsidies from the Social Amelioration Program which is intended for the poor and unemployed.

"My statements during the hearing yesterday [Tuesday] was not in any manner meant to be an affront to the hardworking middle class of the country," Villar said, as she acknowledged that the middle class is the backbone of the economy.

"I might have framed my questions and statements in such a manner that made it seem I was insensitive to the plight of the middle income sector. I am NOT. I am concerned and I look out for the welfare of the middle income workers," she added. "If I have offended anyone with my statements, I humbly apologize."

During the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Tuesday, Villar said the middle class should not be included as beneficiaries of the P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistance which is provided for in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

She said the 18 million target beneficiaries of the emergency subsidy program represent 82% of the estimated 22 million Filipino families in the Philippines.

"Yung 18 million is 82%. Bakit bibigyan 'yung middle eh may trabaho sila, kahit lockdown nagsusweldo sila sa gobyerno kung employed by the government. Kung employed naman ng mga private, nagsusweldo rin sila kaya nga nahihirapan ang mga companies kasi they have to pay the salaries even if there is no business," Villar said.

"Hindi ko ma-accept ang figures na 'yun. Masyadong mataas. Nade-deprive ang mahihirap dahil binibigyan pati ang middle class," she added.

On the other hand, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said that the 22 million families being cited by Villar is from 2015 data which had to be updated to meet the actual needs in the present.

"Of the 22 million families, around 15 million are deemed to be low-income or working in the informal sector. However, to be accurate we had to do a projection from 2015 to 2020. Otherwise, kulang kasi may population growth," Chua said.

"The 2020 estimates now [is] 24 million [families] of which 18 million are considered low-income,  basically working in the informal sector, no work no pay. That is the basis for the 18 million," he added. — RSJ, GMA News