Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has underscored the need to investigate the delays and other logistical problems concerning the distribution of the cash assistance for families that were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 441 directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry on the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) under Republic Act No. 11469, or the “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.”
“In order for the distribution of the remaining cash aid under the first tranche of the SAP and the cash aid under its second tranche may be facilitated in an expeditious and smooth manner, mechanisms that will respond to the glitches faced in the implementation thereof must be reviewed,” she said.
Last March 30, Mr. Duterte announced that the ₱200-billion-worth of aid which will be allotted for “low income households who are badly affected by” the COVID-19 pandemic is the “largest and widest social protection program in the country’s history.”
Despite issuing the guidelines on the implementation of the SAP by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) later on, De Lima said their apparent lack of coordination with the LGUs, attended by their failure to immediately mobilize an information drive, unnecessarily created an even more burdensome scenario for Filipinos needing to be promptly catered to.
Data from the DSWD showed that only 10,135,634 families have so far received the first tranche of the cash aid out of the 18 million Filipino families targeted to receive emergency subsidy – comprising only about 12% of local governments, as of April 30.
The 6th Weekly Report of Duterte to the Joint Congressional Committee pursuant to the Bayanihan Act revealed that the DSWD cited several reasons for the delays in the distribution of emergency subsidy which include, among others, postponement of payout due to exposure of staff to positive COVID-19 cases.
According to the same report, the DSWD also cited supposed threats received by DSWD personnel from LGU officials in some areas, and slow processing by the LGUs, specifically at the barangay level, due to reports of politicizing or inaccurate lists of eligible beneficiaries, for such delays.
“Glaringly, DSWD who was previously quoted telling LGUs that this is not the time for a blame game, did not mention any culpability on its part in the delay of the implementation of the SAP,” De Lima said.
De Lima said it is necessary to determine the veracity of the claims of the DSWD in order to make the necessary improvements to be implemented in ensuring that the right of Filipinos to social protection is upheld especially in the time of a pandemic where the consequences of their social status is most felt by them.
“There must be synergy between the efforts of the DSWD, LGUs and other concerned government agencies – which can only be achieved once the existing gaps are addressed and weaknesses resolved,” she said.
“A senate inquiry in in aid of legislation will be the proper venue to hear the conflicting claims between the stakeholders, and help resolve the reported attendant issues in the implementation of the SAP – which the Senate, along with the House of Representatives, granted unto the President through the Bayanihan Act,” she added.
Based on media reports, the 2nd tranche of SAP cover beneficiaries from Metro Manila, Central Luzon, except the province of Aurora, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Benguet, Pangasinan, Iloilo Province, Cebu Province, Bacolod City, Davao City, Albay, and Zamboanga City. (30)