Five loaves of bread

179

The title is from an elementary school declamation piece that depicts a court hearing for a young girl who stole five loaves of bread to feed her poverty-stricken family —how fitting.

The sudden arrival of the novel Coronavirus has emphasized the lengths Filipino families would go to attain the bare necessities given the lack of assistance received from the government. Despite this, the government continually fails to efficiently supply the Filipino people with ample resources to survive the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). President Duterte enforced military authorities to maintain order during the ECQ, while provisions for the public’s basic needs became a lesser priority. In response to the hungry Filipino families protesting on the streets, the President requested citizens to wait for the food arrangements that are supposedly coming. How many more loaves of bread must be stolen by the Filipino people before the President decides to satisfy the hungry?

Local government units (LGUs) appear to be doing more to address the lack of response from the President. Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto is one of the most notable public figures today, as the mayor was able to distribute food packs to the city residents promptly, and is currently providing a PHP8000 emergency subsidy for each family residing in Pasig under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Moreover, the local government in the first district of Quezon City provided financial aid as well to tricycle drivers, while other LGUs started quarantine facility operations in each respective city with mobile testing centers in the case of Marikina, Cainta, and most recently, Mandaluyong. These local officials were able to cope with the constraints set by the ECQ, which begs a crucial question: Why is there still a lengthy delay in the food arrangements promised by the government?

Ultimately, what is lacking is transparency between the government and the Filipinos given the absence of the allocated emergency subsidies. Given the hefty PHP 275 billion emergency fund, one would expect the government to dedicate a fraction of the budget for local government subsidies but Malacañang never fails to disappoint. There is a need, now more than ever, for a concrete plan to feed the destitute. Life is not a commodity, nor a privilege; it is a right given to all. President Rodrigo Duterte thinks that “If you do not die of COVID-19, you die of hunger”.

The most realistic proposition to cease the spread of the pandemic is to compel this no-good government to feed the hungry.