As concerns hound cash incentive program, Isko Moreno says COVID-19 data to be ‘rigorously’ verified

September 1, 2020 - 6:52 PM
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Isko Moreno by PNA
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno speaks to the public in this undated photo. (Photo from Philippine News Agency)

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Tuesday assured the public that the coronavirus disease-related data in barangay levels will be verified by the city and the national health department following reports that he will give cash incentives to barangays with no COVID-19 cases for two months.

The local chief executive in an interview with a local news outlet said that the Manila Health Department and the Department of Health will “rigorously verify” if a barangay has not recorded any confirmed case from September 1 to October 31, 2020.

“They’re not the one who’s going to tell whether they have COVID-19 or not in their community, it is the city government and the DOH who will know if there is one patient na may positibo sa kanilang barangay,” Moreno said as he referred to the different barangays of Manila.

“Kung talagang magbibigay lang din kami ng tulong, we wanted to utilize whatever resources that we have in continuous effort in fighting COVID-19,” he added.

Moreno in his own Facebook page likewise reiterated that the city government is confident its 896 barangays will be able to achieve zero COVID-19 cases in two months, hence the cash incentives.

“Tulad po ng ginagawa natin simula nitong mga nakaraang buwan, ang Manila Health Department po ay katuwang ng Department of Health sa pag-monitor ng bilang ng COVID-19 cases sa ating mga barangay,” he said.

“In fact, our main goal is to achieve zero COVID-19 infections for two straight months and we in the city government believe that our barangays can make it happen, that’s why decided to offer incentives,” the city chief added.

Fears of ‘underreporting’ 

Moreno’s clarification came after he bared his initiative to give P100,000 to a barangay who will have zero COVID-19 cases from September to October in a supposed bid to control the transmission of the viral disease.

He has already asked Manila Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan for the Manila City Council to allocate P89.6 million for the incentive-based program.

Some Filipinos expressed concerns that it would supposedly prompt barangay officials to be less transparent about the COVID-19 data in an apparent bid to have “zero” reported cases and in turn, “win” cash incentive.

“NO. A challenge like this will just make the barangays LIE outright about confirmed cases, aggravate stigma and ostracizing about COVID-19, and will also encourage tossing people elsewhere for help,” a Twitter user said in response to the reports.

“Huh? Won’t this prevent people to undergo testing? Won’t this lead to barangays hiding their cases? Weird,” another online user claimed.

“Possible unintended consequence of this incentive policy: Underreporting of COVID-19 cases,” commented another Filipino.

Based on the weekly situational report of the DOH as of August 29, the National Capital Region has the highest number of new cases for August 23 to 29 among the country’s different regions.

As of August 31, Manila has 8,110 confirmed COVID-19 cases in which 874 are active or those that are currently infected.