Need food? Turn to your barangay officials, mayors – Duterte

Rambo Talabong

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Need food? Turn to your barangay officials, mayors – Duterte


'Itong mga barangay captain, makinig kayo. This is a mandatory duty. It does not have to have a law,' says President Rodrigo Duterte amid a looming Luzon-wide 'enhanced community quarantine' due to the coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – Attempting to allay fears of a food crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte told millions of Filipinos in Luzon who will be under an “enhanced community quarantine” to seek out their barangay officials and mayors.

President Rodrigo Duterte has already declared a state of public health emergency and placed the entire island of Luzon on lockdown from Monday until April 12 to help contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Under the lockdown’s guidelines, Filipinos in Luzon can only leave their homes to access “basic necessities.” Public markets, supermarkets, groceries, and convenience stores will remain open to the public. 

But what will happen to those unable to work during the lockdown, those unable to buy food, and those who are too far from stores?

The President’s words: San kukuha ng pagkain? It behooves upon the barangay captain. Itong mga barangay captain, makinig kayo. (Where to get food? These barangay captains, listen up) This is a mandatory duty. It does not have to have a law,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded address aired on Monday, March 16, as coronavirus cases in the country continued to rise. 

He then reminded mayors that they can issue executive orders to deal with the crisis and “to protect public health, public order, public safety, as long as they are in good faith.”

During a briefing of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on handling the coronavirus outbreak, IATF spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said local government units should provide aid to their constituents, and the national government will only augment their help.

The national government’s role: Duterte said Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista will “make rounds” and will have “people…go around and look for people who are hungry.”

According to Malacañang’s memorandum that details the guidelines for the lockdown, the DSWD is in charge of distributing food assistance to “the most affected residents” of Luzon.

Food assistance, under the DSWD’s assistance guidelines, amounts to P80 per meal per person, and can be delivered in the form of hot meals, food packs, or food allowance.

Duterte said Filipinos should get used to a new normal during the outbreak.

“We cannnot really control, the contagion perfectly. We want it to be perfect, but there will be the downsides: one of them is food, the other one is your salaries,” Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The Philippines has a total of 142 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with 3 recoveries and 12 deaths.

The global death toll, meanwhile, has reached 6,501, with 3,213 of the fatalities in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). The number of cases worldwide has risen to 168,250, with more than 80,860 of the infections in China. The virus has spread to at least 142 countries. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.