As a small business, our company and our employees are one of the most affected by the Covid-19 lockdown. It actually came as a surprise and we hadn’t really had the time to prepare for the month-long quarantine. I would assume our employees weren’t able to save for the days when the company won’t be capable of providing compensation, and this is also true for other workers and companies.
After being on lockdown for a few days, the government announced, particularly DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), that it will provide assistance to all Filipino workers and will allocate Php 5000 for each employee who is not able to work during the containment period. Most Filipinos are living paycheck to paycheck and are usually having a hard time making ends meet. One couldn’t blame them as the buying power of our money is extremely weak. I should know all these because some of our workers couldn’t even budget their money until the next salary that they sometimes ask for “cash advance”. When our government announced that it will put the whole country in a state of calamity and would implement quarantine, almost all establishments temporarily closed except for the grocery and drug stores. Most of the workers didn’t have the time to prepare and save. A lot of these people literally live in a day to day basis. They won’t have food on their tables unless they go to work so imagine their worry when their respective employers told them that their companies are temporarily suspending operations, and that they cannot provide compensation in the meantime? They must have felt scared for their families especially their children.
The budget allocation from DOLE was formally announced on March 18,2020. Our workers were delighted and the thought of not going to work and be given Php 5000 by the government is a big deal because this time, they won’t have to spend money on transportation, they would only need to worry about their food. Providers like Meralco, Globe, PLDT, Smart and a whole lot of other companies announced that they are going to provide extension for bills payment. The President requested for rental fees to be moved or waived. Our very own Mayor formally wrote a letter to building owners to waive or at least postpone rental charges for the month. Everything was going fairly well and we thought that the lockdown wasn’t that bad after all. The government has stepped up for its people and the private sectors were also willing to help and cooperate. Everyone was full of hope and I was feeling proud that I am Filipino.
We submitted our requirements to DOLE on March 20th after getting all the information that were needed according to their guidelines. We were optimistic and grateful that the government has actually decided to support the Filipino workers, but those feelings were replaced by disappointment. It’s been weeks since we’ve submitted our requirements and until now, not one of our workers was contacted by DOLE. We have actually sent at least 50 emails, some of them they were able to answer (though I would think they were using an automated system), but were asking for the same requirements over again. When finally, I felt that a human being answered our query, he/she was also asking for a requirement that we have already sent. But then again, I submitted that one requirement once more and when I did, he/she asked again for the other one, and when I did submit that, he/she went back to asking the first requirement. Not until I warned him/her (whoever he/she may be; I thought it would be better if they would provide their names when answering or maybe they are purposely avoiding that), that I am going to report the incident to DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), that he/she stopped and finally said that they are acknowledging our application and will get back to us. They didn’t say when, but it was 5 days ago when they last emailed us. Again, I sent a follow-up 3 days after their last email but to no avail. All these, I am sharing to my employees to lift their spirits, so they’d know that we are doing what we can to get the support from the government which they’ve proudly and vehemently announced, giving our workers false hopes and all the other Filipino workers who have no one to rely on. Despite the nationwide quarantine and postponing business operations, luckily, we are still able to provide our employees a very small amount for food on a weekly basis and my sister who is from the US donated what she can to at least help them get through for a few days despite the fact that the US is also on recession and she herself is getting worried for their future.
In the midst of all these, while we are losing hope and faith on DOLE, on March 31,2020, the President announced that the government will allot Php 200 Billion for the Filipino people, that almost everyone will be provided for, again as support for the days that our citizens are not able to earn a living. Once again, they’ve raised hopes for those who are having a hard time surviving and providing for their families. It’s been 18 days since DOLE’s announcement and 1 week since the President’s speech and yet not a single centavo was ever given to any of our employees; not from DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and not from DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), the agency that was assigned to distribute the Php 200-B allotted fund. The lockdown is ending soon (if we are not extending it); the President formerly said that the quarantine is only until April 14, that’s just one week away from today, as I am writing this article. We are giving our employees food allowances weekly, and even that, we are not sure we are going to be able to maintain given that we don’t have income at the moment. We’ve heard some people talking that only the poorest of the poor will be receiving from the Php 200-B-subsidy. If one is going to base it on population count, the Php 200-Billion is actually more than enough for all the Filipino households. At the moment, we can only hope that the government will also declare to its people the exact computation as to where all these budgets are going and went.
I am not sure if our government is naive or just choosing to look the other way. Our President is in good faith and doing his duty to provide for the Filipino people as he has proactively sought for an approval from the Congress and Senate to grant him additional powers so he can handle the crisis more effectively. But the government as a whole failed to provide the assistance that it has promised its people. It has repeatedly given false hopes to those who cannot fend for themselves. I can only imagine how those people feel. We, as a family still have food to eat and enough to help us get through this crisis. But what about those families that don’t have much and have babies and children? How are they going to get by? How do they handle it when their children complain that they are hungry or when their babies cry because they couldn’t even buy milk? How do the elderly feel when they don’t have the means to buy their maintenance medicine because their children fail to provide for them? How fearful they must be knowing that there’s nothing anyone can do to help them during these hard times. This government as a whole failed its people in a time of national calamity, when its citizens need its help most; the very people whom they’ve promised to serve and protect when they’ve decided to enter public service. As for us, we are not expecting anything anymore, just sad that this government has gotten so insensitive to its people, that they can proudly and publicly declare something they are not sure they can deliver.