Duterte: National ID system could have hastened COVID-19 aid rollout

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 14) — The execution of the national ID system could have helped speed up the government's aid distribution amid the continuing lockdown brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte said in his address late Monday night.

Duterte said the public should not blame the government because leftist groups stood in the way of its implementation.

"Yung national ID, makatulong kaya lang ayaw 'yung mga left, kaya kita mo ngayon wala tayong ID system until now," he said.

[Translation: The national ID could have helped but the left did not like the idea, that's why we don't have an ID system until now.]

"'Wag kayo magturo sa gobyerno. Gusto namin may ID, maniwala naman kayo sa left, sa komunista, eh 'di bahala kayo, 'yan ang problema," Duterte added.

[Translation: Don't point fingers at the government. We wanted to have an ID, if you believe in the leftist groups, the communists, it's up to you, that's the problem.]

Duterte also defended Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista from criticisms on his slow distribution of cash aid to 18 million low-income households, three weeks after the Bayanihan to Heal as One law was enacted.

Duterte said the Commission on Elections has a list that could help identify potential beneficiaries but "flying voters" only contribute to the problem of distribution as they cannot be located.

"We are distributing to 18 million low income families. Ang problem ngayon (The problem now is), everybody wants to have it, too. After a reevaluation or revalidation at malaman na namin (and we get the findings), I'm sure Secretary Bautista can act immediately," the President said.

Duterte signed Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act of 2018, which requires all Filipinos to personally register with the Philippine ID system. Under the law, all citizens will have a single official identification card that integrates and interconnects various government-issued IDs.

'Do not use the Left as scapegoat for delay in aid'

Meanwhile, leftist lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc noted that the problem lies in the lack of urgency and comprehensive analysis of data among government agencies which have caused the delay in the distribution of cash subsidy to those who need it the most.

"Pinondohan na ito ng bilyon bilyon. Hindi ito ang dahilan kung bakit bigo at kulang pa rin ang ayuda sa ating mga kabuhayan. Ang dahilan ay kakulangan ng komprehensibo at malinaw na plano sa mga national government agencies," said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who earlier warned against the implementation of the national ID system law.

[Translation: This was already funded by billions. This is not the reason why the government failed in providing enough aid for our means of livelihood. The reason lies in the lack of comprehensive and clear plan among national agencies.]

Zarate earlier warned that the national ID system would not only violate the public's right to privacy, but would also threaten the country's sovereignty.

Meanwhile, ACT-Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro shared the same sentiment and noted that the government is only "looking for ways to cover its inefficiency" in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, said that he will call on the Senate to conduct investigation on the delayed implementation of the national ID system.

Last Sunday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases excluded from the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine the officials of the Philippine Statistics Authority in order for them to conduct data gathering for the enforcement of the national ID system.

Officials earlier said the printing of the ID cards will cost at least ₱3.4 billion and they are expected to be distributed by 2022.