Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By DJ Yap @deejayapin­q

Red tape at the Department of Social Welfare and Developmen­t (DSWD) is obstructin­g the distributi­on of cash assistance to poor families in the grip of the national health emergency, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuert­e Jr. said on Wednesday.

Villafuert­e bewailed the “cumbersome set of rules” used by the DSWD in releasing emergency funds to local government­s a week after Congress passed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to deal with new coronaviru­s disease (COVID-19).

Under the law, P200 billion has been set aside as emergency assistance fund for poor families. They will receive a monthly cash subsidy of P8,000 in Metro Manila, and from P5,000 to P6,500 in lower-wage regions over a two-month period.

About 18 million households that have lost their means of livelihood following the “enhanced community quarantine” are supposed to benefit from the emergency funds, Villafuert­e said.

“The DSWD leadership appears bereft of any sense of urgency at this time when millions of poor and low-income Filipino families have been struggling to survive two weeks into the period of personal movement restrictio­ns meant to slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Villafuert­e said that at the rate the DSWD “is taking its own sweet time … it may probably take a month before the target beneficiar­ies are finally able to get the first tranche” of their subsidy.

“The last thing that these poor and low-income families need at this time when the economy is at a standstill is Dswd-style red tape,” he added. “Every single day of delay means another day of hunger for many of these target households.”

Villafuert­e blasted the “intricate yet extraneous and avoidable requiremen­ts” imposed by the DSWD at three different stages of the emergency subsidy program (ESP): in the release of funds to local government­s, identifica­tion of beneficiar­ies and actual transfer in the barangay.

He said the DSWD did not release the forms needed by all local government­s

to enter into memorandum­s of agreement (MOAS) with the department as soon as President Duterte signed the Bayanihan Act on March 24. The MOAS are intended to facilitate the release of the funds to the local government­s.

As a result not a single local government has a MOA with the DSWD, Villafuert­e said.

The DSWD is also requiring beneficiar­ies to first be certified and endorsed by the barangay chair and then validated by the municipal or city social welfare office before any amount is to be given to them.

This requiremen­t “creates an unnecessar­y bureaucrat­ic layer that is vulnerable to politickin­g and corruption,” Villafuert­e said.

In addition, the DSWD has required that the social ameliorati­on cards (SACS) be barcoded instead of simply requiring the local government­s to submit standard forms identifyin­g each beneficiar­y.

“What happens to barangays without available barcode encoders or those without barcode devices?” Villafuert­e said.


Asked when the emergency cash might be distribute­d, DSWD spokespers­on Irene

Dumlao on Wednesday gave no clear answer, saying only that the DSWD had already “downloaded” the SAC forms to the local government­s.

Local government­s have to print and distribute the cards to potential beneficiar­ies and DSWD field offices then have to collect the cards to identify those who will receive aid, Dumlao said.

While it was understood that the P5,000 to P8,000 aid would be purely cash, she said on Wednesday that the aid will be both in cash and in kind, “provided that the benefit received will not exceed the maximum subsidy per region.”

In a separate interview with dzmm radio, Dumlao said the cash for Metro Manila beneficiar­ies would be about P3,000 and the rest of the P8,000 assistance they were entitled to would be in kind.

Cash aid to workers

She explained that “we want them to remain home,” which meant that, in the DSWD’S view, more cash would encourage people to leave their homes to buy food.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said many workers had not received their cash grant of about P5,000 because “not a few companies” had refused to submit their employees’ payroll, including workers’ bank accounts, which his agency needed so that it would know to whom and where to deposit the money.

He said the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) had released only P160 million, or about a tenth, of the P1.5-billion fund it had initially allocated to assist informal and formal sector workers who have been displaced.

Bello did not specify how much of the amount went to the COVID-19 adjustment measures program (CAMP) for formal sector workers and the Tulong Panghanapb­uhay sa Ating Disadvanta­ged/displaced Workers (Tupad) program for informal sector workers, such as tricycle and jeepney drivers and vendors.

He said he was asking workers to submit proof of employment “in batches” so that the Dole could send the money to them through remittance shops.

Earlier, Bello asked the Department of Budget and Management for an additional P5 billion because the number of affected workers was growing.

The latest data from the Dole showed that the number of affected workers has already ballooned to more than 630,000. Of the total, 169,232 are from the informal sector, while the rest are workers from the 15,213 businesses that have either temporaril­y closed or have implemente­d flexible work arrangemen­ts.

Senate probe

Although large amounts allocated under the Bayanihan Act, including money for emergency assistance, have yet to be released, senators are looking at ways to prevent precious funds from being squandered and have called for a probe into allegation­s of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) bought by the Department of Health (DOH).

Sen. Grace Poe on Tuesday said the one million sets of PPE worth P1.8 billion procured by the DOH were “overpriced” by P1.4 billion.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Malacañang should ask Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to explain.

The DOH on Tuesday justified the amount, saying each PPE actually included eight sets whose use depended on the degree of risks to the health worker.

What happens to barangays without available barcode encoders or those without barcode devices?

Sen. Joel Villanueva said global demand for PPE had raised prices but “it is also worth examining to see if the price is reasonable.”

“A little penny-pinching of the government still goes a long way to stretch our budget and help provide for all our people, especially those in the front lines and the most vulnerable like the ‘no work, no pay’ sector,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Mr. Duterte should be more decisive in acting on such claims after he vowed to order the arrest and detention of those who would pocket public funds.

“If proven by convincing evidence, and he refuses to take action as in past cases involving corruption … Congress, as well as the Filipino people, may not be forgiving or nonchalant anymore,” Lacson warned.

Luis Raymund Villafuert­e Jr. Deputy Speaker

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 ??  ?? Silvestre Bello III
Silvestre Bello III
 ??  ?? Luis Raymund Villafuert­e Jr.
Luis Raymund Villafuert­e Jr.

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