Senator Villar ‘humbly apologizes’ after backlash on anti-middle class remarks

<i>Photo: Cynthia Villar / FB</i>
Photo: Cynthia Villar / FB

Shortly after drawing brickbats for saying in a Senate hearing that middle-class families should be left out of the government’s COVID-19 cash aid relief, billionaire Senator Cynthia Villar has today “humbly” apologized for her seeming “insensitive” comments.

Why, whatever led you to that conclusion, senator?

“My statements during the hearing yesterday was not in any manner meant to be an affront to the hardworking middle class of the country,” Villar said in a statement.

“I might have framed my questions and statements in such a manner that made it seem I was insensitive to the plight of the middle income sector. I am NOT. If I have offended anyone with my statements, I humbly apologize,” the senator added.

Villar, who remains the country’s richest senator in the 18th Congress and whose husband is also the richest Filipino on Forbes’ 2020 list, said she understood middle-income workers’ plight.

“I recognize the workers’ contributions to the country and their families,” she said.

Read: Expensive foreign milk to blame for ‘dumb’ Filipino children: Sen. Villar

Under the Bayanihan Act, the government is required to provide cash aids of up to PHP8,000 (US$157) for 18 million low-income families or 82% of the population. In yesterday’s Senate hearing, however, Villar said that only poorest or 59% should receive aid, and not middle class workers who “have jobs.”

“The middle class are part of that 82%. They have jobs, even if there’s a lockdown, the government and private companies are paying them salaries, why should they be entitled to SAP [social amelioration program]? They have salaries, and they’re lucky to have salaries,” Villar said.

“I cannot accept the number of beneficiaries because the poor are being deprived of help because you are also helping the middle class,” the senator added.

No stranger to drawing flak from head-scratching comments, Villar last year publicly reproached the Agriculture Department, calling it “crazy” for doing too much research, then doubling down weeks later urging the public to stop eating the lowly galunggong (round scad), if they can’t afford it, and just eat vegetables instead. Villar then welcomed the new year with the equally not-well-received statement, in which she claimed that foreign milk was dumbing down Pinoy children.

Read: Actor Robin Padilla calls out Cavite Governor Remulla for asking Duterte to help middle class families

Earlier this month, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla had asked President Rodrigo Duterte to include overlooked middle class families in the government’s COVID-19 relief, saying that the lockdown has depleted most middle-income families’ savings.

“It is a time of crisis for everyone. Not just the poorest of the poor, but also those who have built much but not enough,” Remulla said.

The cash aid disbursal, meanwhile, has been met with criticism, and only 14.8 million of the targeted 18 million low-income families have reportedly received their SAP as of May 9. Contrary to this, Interior Government Spokesman Jonathan Malaya last week said that only 2% of families nationwide have yet to receive their SAP, blaming officials for delays in distribution.

So maybe it wasn’t the middle class that’s “depriving” the poor of cash aid relief. Right, senator?

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