Across the country, 17 months of pandemic restrictions have rendered millions jobless, underemployed, bankrupt and impoverished. The problem, however, cannot be remedied by stealing limited resources allocated for public assistance.
In Pasig while the National Capital Region was under enhanced community quarantine or ECQ, a scam was uncovered involving the distribution of ayuda or lockdown aid. City officials said that under the scam, a fixer would hand out ayuda forms that were filled out by fake beneficiaries. Two validators would approve the fund release. The fixer and validators got P3,000 each; the fake beneficiary, P1,000.
The only positive aspect in this story is that those involved were arrested last Thursday afternoon by the police, at a covered court in Barangay Kalawaan where ayuda was being distributed. Eighteen suspects were apprehended, including two aid evaluators and the alleged fixer as well as several residents of Marikina City and Rizal province. The suspects, most of them Pasig residents, also reportedly gave themselves food packs from the city government.
While many families are in dire financial need in this pandemic, the end cannot justify the means. In fact the arrest of the 18 must alert other local government units to watch out for similar scams, which could drain the limited resources for aid of LGUs. Citizens themselves must be vigilant against irregularities in aid distribution.
The 18 must face investigation and appropriate punishment, to deter others from carrying out similar scams. With COVID cases hitting an all-time high of 17,231 on the last day of ECQ last Friday, this health crisis isn’t about to end any time soon. There will be other instances when emergency aid will have to be doled out to those most in need. With the country’s limited resources and the pandemic-driven debt now reaching trillions of pesos, the government cannot afford to see scarce ayuda pocketed by crooks. It must send a strong message that such illegal activities will not be tolerated.