When different sectors of society asked then President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to suspend the excise tax on oil due to skyrocketing prices of goods in the market, he called it a “blanket solution” to the problem of rising price of gas, and leaned on giving ayuda (handouts) to transport workers instead.
The same was his solution when he vetoed the bill exempting the poll workers’ honoraria and other benefits they receive for their services they render every election, saying that he will get back to them when the election day comes and determine how much ayuda he can give them based on the available money had at his disposal.
His obsession of using government handouts as a solution to a problem that needs more concrete and decisive action only means that he doesn’t really intend to resolve the problem head-on.
Let me be clear. I am not in any way saying that ayuda is never helpful. The Duterte government’s stimulus program, the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), was cited by the World Bank to have helped millions of Filipinos keep afloat at the height of the pandemic (though, the World Bank also said that its slow rollout failed to target the poorest of the poor, but still, good effort).
“Ayuda is necessary to dampen the impact of worsening poverty. This is as job and income losses have yet to be recovered and are even mounting with over a year and a half of repeated and ineffective lockdowns,” said independent think-tank IBON in 2021.
It is worth noting, however, that had the Duterte administration not short-changed their cash grants, the impact of the economic scarring on the working class could’ve been minimized significantly.
But now that the economy is trying to restart after the ravages of many months under harsh lockdowns and community quarantines, merely giving cash grants will not suffice anymore.
If the government is hellbent on giving relief to its people, it must understand that losing a few billions of pesos in revenue is worth it if it will help millions of Filipinos get by with the rising costs of everything in the market today.
Marcos will never get the honeymoon period he said he deserves with all the crisis pounding the country today. It is up to him if he wants to be remembered as the President who provided relief to millions of Filipinos struggling because of the high prices of oil and gas, or the one who promised action but never actually delivered.
The ball is in his court.
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.
Watch more videos on Yahoo: