There’s no stopping the Catholic Church in the Philippines from doing what is expected of them in difficult and desperate times: Helping the poor and the vulnerable sectors in society amid the life-and-death threat from the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos Diocese and co-chairman of the Church People–Workers Solidarity urging the government to help the country’s workers by releasing cash aid promised to them since the quarantine measures imposed due to the disease outbreak has adversely affected their livelihood and food security.
“We strongly demand that the Department of Labor and Employment immediately release the financial assistance to all affected workers whether from small, medium, and large enterprises,” Bishop Alminaza said.
The prelate pointed out the urgency of this demand as workers and their families are left without any income to buy food and other basic necessities.
He also urged the government to ask companies employing affected workers to apply for the cash assistance under the government’s social amelioration program to mitigate the impact of the quarantine measures.
The assistance provided by the Department of Labor and Employment requires employers to apply for the financial assistance for their workers.
“We reiterate our call to the government to oblige all companies to apply on behalf of their workers and/or allow workers to apply directly for the said assistance,” said the bishop.
About 220,000 workers affected by the lockdown have already benefited from its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, said the labor department.
About 1.4 million workers have been displaced since the lockdown forced businesses to temporarily close or implement flexible work arrangements.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is supporting persons with disabilities and workers in the informal economy affected by the lockdown with over 1.2 million pesos (about US$24,000) in initial assistance.
CRS is the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. Its sub-office in Manila has partnered with Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc. (TWHI) to help at least 116 people with disabilities in a residential facility in the town of Cainta, Rizal province.
The assistance includes one-month supply of food and hygiene items that the residents themselves selected during remote consultations with CRS and TWHI.
CRS Philippines is also working with Caritas Pasig in providing some 150 informal workers with at least 5,000-peso cash grants (about US$100) that they can use to buy food and other basic necessities.
Cash grant beneficiaries include tricycle and jeepney drivers, sidewalk vendors, construction workers and those who have lost their source of income but are excluded in the government’s cash assistance program.
The religious orders in the Philippines are also pulling all stops in helping poor families.
The Jesuits and the De La Salle Brothers have banded together to raise money to support people facing hunger amid the lockdown. As of April 15, they have raised more than 10 million pesos (about US$198,000) to feed around 500 homeless staying in safe shelters and over 6,000 urban poor families in Metro Manila.
The Jesuits and the De La Salle Brothers run two of the biggest schools in the country, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University (DLSU), respectively.
DLSU was one of the first schools to provide temporary sanctuary to street dwellers in Manila during the enhanced community quarantine. Another campus in the capital also provided shelter for health workers of The Medical City.
Ateneo has also initiated a fund drive to provide personal protective equipment for hospital workers and food packs for families who have been affected by the loss of jobs due to the lockdown.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines has mobilized practically its entire machinery from the national to the local levels to help the poor and the vulnerable sectors cope with the debilitating health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
They deserve praise, not vitriol, from the current political dispensation for actively helping the poor and filling up the government’s inadequacies in responding to the public health crisis.
Ernesto M. Hilario writes on political and social justice issues for various publications in the Philippines. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.