Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to issue clear guidelines for the distribution of the government assistance package set aside for more than 18 million families that are financially hit by the lockdown.
De Lima made the statement after Mr. Duterte’s announcement that he gave orders to the Welfare Department to lead the disbursement of both cash and food aid through their Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“Yes, DSWD has the distribution network, but is it an efficient one? And, given now that the clientele of DSWD has more than tripled under the Bayanihan Law, can that distribution network and system adapt?” she asked.
“Do we even have the database already for those 18 million families? Do we have clear guidelines for the Social Amelioration Program?” she added.
Last April 1, Mr. Duterte said that the reason why he tasked the distribution of the relief package of food and cash worth PhP275 billion to the DSWD, is because there are complaints about politicians handling the money.
This was confirmed by Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, that PhP100 billion – intended solely as cash aid – was advanced to DSWD, to jumpstart the Social Amelioration Program of the Bayanihan Law.
In a press conference the next day, by the government’s Anti-COVID-19 task force, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the oversight and distribution directive was given to DSWD “to ensure only that the targeted beneficiaries will receive the government subsidies”.
However, De Lima worries if the DSWD is up to the task given that the 4Ps database it has was originally created for only 4.4 million families and that it already has an existing two-month backlog of cash distributions for its intended beneficiaries.
“The report, as of (March 24-27), pointed to the slow disbursement of pay-outs to 4Ps beneficiaries, where the DSWD was only able to release the cash assistance for the period of Dec. 2019 to Jan. 2020. Hinihintay pa po ng ating 4Ps beneficiaries ang ayuda nila para sa Pebrero at Marso. Abril na po ngayon,” she said.
“Ang backlog na ito ay sa 4Ps program pa lang para sa 4.4 milyong pamilya. How will the DSWD fulfill the requirement of distributing cash assistance and food to 18 million households, under the Bayanihan Law?” she added.
As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, De Lima urged the DSWD to display the needed leadership and decisive action to ensure that the most affected of Filipinos will be able to receive aid at the soonest possible time.
She noted that people are already starting to express their anger at the delays in aid distribution of the government, such as the demonstration and blockade organized by urban poor residents of Sitio San Roque of Quezon City.
“DSWD plays a very critical role in the government’s response to the ongoing crisis. I hope and pray that it is up to the challenge. Tapusin nyo na po ang backlog sa 4Ps pay-outs. Ayusin nyo na po ang database, mapping, and distribution system para sa 18 milyong pamilyang umaasa na sa ayuda at pagkain,” De Lima said.
“Ilabas nyo na po ang mga klaro at detalyadong patakaran sa pamimigay para sa kaayusan ng lahat, lalo na ng mga kawani ng DSWD, mga tauhan ng LGUs, at ang napakaraming Pilipinong lubos na umaasa po sa inyo,” she added. (30)