IF BY fire the President means the one felt by sectors discontented by how government is handling the health crisis, then Vice President (VP) Leni Robredo’s airing of her list of recommendations is certainly fuel. A perceived contrast that gives the impression that the VP has certainly more method and sense in how the country should steer away from further crisis puts government in a disadvantaged position.
But it need not be. Government can always reset its default response to critics. Had officials listened closely to the VP’s recommendations, they’d have found that the list doesn’t really fall far from what government has been doing all along under the Bayanihan law, now evolving into a sequel. Far from perfect, beset by a failed appreciation of the enormity of the problem and the urgency of solutions—plus the clutter at the community frontlines—government’s efforts need the flexibility and the inputs from the community. Thus, the VP’s list helps.
The Bayanihan 2 earmarks P655 billion to help some 18 million low-income households and 3.1 workers of small businesses cope with the crisis, a part of which will also be spent to boost the country’s health care system.
Robredo proposes a four-month extension of financial aid to the 10 million poorest families, requiring P200 billion. It is, she said, a “small amount to save our fellow Filipinos from hunger. The National Government has already distributed financial assistance twice, but many experts agree that we should allocate more funds to extend such an effort.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted government agencies involved in the Covid-19 response to disclose their spending every 15 days by publishing it in newspapers.
“Every 15 days you would know how much a department has disbursed money of the people,” he said in a taped address.
It’s a welcome move towards transparency as government is about to bankroll the Bayanihan 2 soon. The proposed law also provides that the National Government reports to the public every month. Leaders must understand that all efforts to address the health crisis lie heavily on public trust, without which implementation of its supposed programs in the communities will always be met by skepticism among the citizenry.
“Fuel to the fire” shouldn’t be the apt metaphor for the VP’s prescriptions, even as it borders on saying towards the end of her message that people better fend for themselves and not hope too much from government. We still need government, to whom we have entrusted our nation’s biggest resource, to be deployed back to us in the most helpful, imaginative ways.