“We’ll die from either two things: hunger or the virus. I think we’ll die earlier because of hunger.”
It’s been a month since Rodrigo Duterte implemented the militarist Luzon lockdown. The number of Covid-positive individuals rapidly increased during the period. On April 20, the total number of infections and deaths reached 6,459 and 428, respectively.
On top of the health crisis, people are also suffering from hunger due to the lockdown. Duterte promised to distribute P8,000 each to 18 million families through the Social Amelioration Program.
The semiproletrait in urban centers are among those hardest hit by the lockdown implementation. They live in cramped urban poor communities and where social services are scarce.
They are those who do not have regular jobs and sources of incomes such as vendors, drivers, jeepney barkers and laundrywomen among others. Like other workers who live on daily wages, they find it extremely difficult to make ends meet for their families especially that they lost their sources of income. For now, they only survive through the help of concerned individuals, groups and institutions.
Emar, house painter
Emar, 39, is a house painter and an employee of a construction company in Metro Manila. He is compensated with P555 per day. He said that his company is relatively better and more humane as it provides its workers subsidies. Despite this, he still finds it difficult to survive.
“The situation today is still difficult. The allowance they give out, unlike my salary, is not sufficient to cover my needs. Things were way better without the pandemic as I could freely go to work and earn a living.”
Emar is given a meager P1,000 per week which he stretches to survive. He is not among those who will receive aid from the regime as his name is not included in the Department of Social Work and Development’s list of indigent individuals.
Families with an employed member are disqualified from the agency’s aid program. Each household will only receive a single aid package, regardless of the number of families living in it.
Emar said, “I hope they will distribute the aid from the Social Amelioration Program to everyone who needs it. In my case, I can’t work, and I also need it. I hope that they will not discriminate and give the amount they have promised. Because if they don’t, what will happen to us? If only things were better, people won’t need to fight over this P8,000 or P5,000 subsidy.”
Joel, 35, jeepney driver
The livelihood of Joel, 35, a jeepney driver, was also badly affected. Joel is married and has three children. His youngest child is only six-month old. Working for 19 hours, he would earn a net income of P2,000, which is then deducted by P1,000 in payment of the boundary fee or rent for the jeepney.
Under the lockdown, Joel lost his source of income because public transportation was banned. He also cannot go home to his family in Pampanga because boundaries were closed, there are no available means, and also because he does not have the money to pay the fare. He only sleeps in his operator’s jeepney. His operator provides him food everyday and also receives donations from other concerned individuals. However, the money he is able to raise is insufficient to make ends meet for his family. He has not received any aid from the local government because he is not a registered voter in the area. He said, “I’m LTFRB registered but they haven’t given out IDs so that I will be listed as a beneficiary.”
To avoid getting infected, Joel just stays inside his operator’s jeepney. His only protection is a face mask. “Support the poor and ensure their livelihood amid the pandemic,” demanded Joel.
Where’s the aid?
Based on Duterte’s report on April 20, only 4 million out of the targeted 18 million poor families have benefited from the Social Amelioration Program. Majority of whom (3.7 million) are beneficiaries of the 4Ps program. Because of the chaotic, difficult and slow process of distribution, only more than 600,000 families (4.5%) of the targeted 13.5 million families of non-4Ps beneficiaries were given aid. The figure has remained almost the same since last week. On April 17, only 2.3% of the estimated 5 million semiworkers received aid. Similarly, only 9% (40,400) of the targeted 435,000 driver beneficiaries provided with subsidies.
Meanwhile, the DOLE suspended its financial aid to workers on April 17 claiming that funds were already depleted. Of the total 10.7 million workers, DOLE only targeted to aid 321,975 families, 237,653 of whom have received subsidies.
The Duterte regime’s treachery and lies were exposed by its own Social Amelioration Program. It deliberately made the distribution process stringent by imposing many requirements on the poor. Instead of simplifying the process to ensure the immediate distribution of aid, the regime is oppressing and blaming the poor. It threatens anyone who complains of being shot.
More than 136,000 were apprehended, punished or arrested by the police for alleged lockdown violations, such as violations on curfew and social distancing, and illegal “assembly.” In Agusan del Norte, a 68-year-old man was shot at a checkpoint by the polce for purportedly violating lockdown restrictions.
The militarist lockdown is utterly anti-people, especially that the regime has not laid out any measure to ensure the quick and broad distribution of aid, medical services and mass testing. The conditions which Duterte himself created are pushing semiworkers like Emar and Joel to rise up and oust him from power.