Metro Manila mayors are to start the distribution of cash aid today, but one city was barred from handing over the much-needed funds to their low-income residents upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Without naming the city, Duterte on Monday instructed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to take over the distribution of financial aid in the said area until the “disorganized mayor” refines the disbursement process.
“Take over the distribution of the assistance and whatever aid the national government would give to the local government units (LGU) which could not properly organize the distribution,” the President told his alter egos during his televised meeting with them.
He also claimed that “there is only one in Metro Manila” which had shortcomings several times in its pandemic response.
“There is one city here where people waited for directions, but I think it is the mayor who has a disorganized mind,” Duterte said.
The DSWD and the DILG have yet to identify the city the President was referring to. Duterte’s spokesperson, Secretary Harry Roque, also refused to name the local mayor who was the target of the Philippine leader’s tirades Monday night.
“The President neither identified the mayor nor the city. As a spokesperson, I cannot add to what the President said. He might have a reason for not mentioning the name, but I don’t know why,” Roque told reporters Tuesday afternoon during a news conference.
The Palace official, however, assured the public that the qualified beneficiaries in the said city would receive the cash aid allocated for them.
No names, lots of clues
Duterte, who has long been utilizing his televised address to attack his critics, slammed the Metro Manila mayor after Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, showed photos of systematic and orderly immunization process in some cities in the region.
The President then lamented that some Filipinos were forced to line up for hours in one city just to get Covid-19 vaccines. He then criticized the mayor for supposedly blaming “everyone but himself” for the disorderly vaccination system.
He added that the local official, whose lewd photos are circulating online, does not deserve to aspire for the presidency.
“You, Filipinos, don’t be fooled by those who speak with drama,” Duterte said. “I saw on Facebook earlier that this fool is wearing a bikini. He even has a photo looking at his penis. You want that? His training is like that of a call boy. He takes off his clothes, takes pictures wearing a bikini, even removing his underwear.”
While no names were mentioned, Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso is the only Metro Manila mayor who previously portrayed adult roles as a former actor. He had publicity photos similar to those Duterte had mentioned.
Earlier this week, a vaccination site in his city was also swarmed by Filipinos, photos of which made rounds online.
Asked if Duterte was pertaining to Moreno, Roque said: “I don’t know why you are putting out the name of Isko Moreno. I don’t know if he has such a post, I don’t know. I have no information.”
Following Duterte’s remarks, Moreno shared to reporters a certificate of recognition given to Manila City by the DILG for its “efficient and timely completion of the distribution of ayuda.” Dated 30 June, the certificate was signed by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
He also told the media that he has yet to receive an order from the Palace that the Manila LGU was stripped of authority in distributing cash assistance.
Over the past weeks, Moreno himself has also been taking digs at incompetent government officials whom he also did not name.
The mayor has performed relatively well in surveys on voters’ preferences for possible presidential and vice-presidential candidates, even placing second to Duterte’s eldest daughter, Sara.
Amid the apparent word war between Duterte and Moreno, the national government and the local officials were poised to begin the cash aid distribution of P10.98 billion-worth of funds for at least 11 million residents in the capital region today.
The beneficiaries, Año said, are poor individuals and families who have been identified by local officials. They were long-term or temporary residents in the capital who were affected by the imposition of the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Each qualified recipient would get cash assistance worth P1,000. However, the amount would not exceed P4,000 per family.
The local officials were required to complete the cash aid distribution within 15 days, Año said.
To ensure the orderly distribution of cash aid, military personnel, and policemen would be deployed across the region, he added.
The two-week hard lockdown in the region was expected to increase the number of poor people by up to 177,000 and the unemployed by 444,000.
About P105 billion were lost to the economy for each week Metro Manila was under ECQ, since establishments deemed “non-essential” were barred from operating during the period.
Only select industries were permitted to operate during the lockdown, including those involved in the delivery of food, health, and other basic services.
The two-week ECQ was necessary to prevent a possible surge in coronavirus infections driven by the presence of the highly contagious Covid-19 Delta variant in Metro Manila, which may overwhelm the country’s health care facility, according to the government.