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MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte threatened government officials tasked to deliver emergency assistance that he would throw them in jail if they divert funds and goods allocated for Filipinos affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Duterte made the statement in a televised message broadcasted late Monday night, March 30, saying he would not hesitate to suspend officials if they were discovered to have stolen and failed to give aid to Filipinos.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng trabahante ng gobyernong nandiyan. At ako naman po’y at the same time nagbibigay ng warning. Totohanan ko talaga kayo – sa crisis tapos gawin mo pa ‘yun? Dapat ka talagang ikulong. Hindi kita i-release,” Duterte said on Monday night.
“Hindi ako maniwala ng kaso-kaso. Hayaan mo magpapa-preso ako balang araw kung mali ang sinabi ko at ginawa ko,” he added.
(I thank all the government workers. [But] at the same time I’m giving you a warning. I’m serious, you still do that amid the crisis? You should be jailed. I won’t release you. I don’t believe in [filing] cases. Don’t worry, I’ll go to jail someday if I do or say anything wrong.)
Before the President made the threat, he told all officials tasked to distribute food, relief goods, and money to do so “to a tee,” saying he will not overlook errors committed.
“I am not a cruel man pero kung may report ang pulis (but if the police report it), I will order your detention hanggang matapos itong COVID-19, (until this COVID-19 [outbreak] is over),” Duterte said, referring to the disease cause by the novel coronavirus.
What government aid? With the recently-signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Duterte said some P200 billion in emergency assistance has been allocated for low-income families affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Duterte claimed the amount will fund the “largest and widest social protection program” in the country’s history, with assistance expected to go to workers in the informal sector as well as those who live on daily wages and face “no work, no pay” schemes.
Duterte listed this among the 3 priorities of the Philippine government in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, along with securing facilities and resources for health workers and ensuring fiscal efforts are taken to cushion the economic impact of the quarantine measures.
Why this matters. Strict home quarantine measures have prevented millions of workers from reporting to their jobs despite the need to earn money in order to buy food and essential goods.
The situation has left nearly 500,000 workers displaced due to quarantine measures, according to the Department of Labor and Employment. Of this number, 117,890 were part of the informal sector.
Government aid is seen to help workers tide over the quarantine period.
As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded 1,546 coronavirus cases, with 78 deaths and 42 recoveries. – Rappler.com