Red tape at DSWD seen delaying P200-b cash aid
MANILA, Philippines — 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.
—WITH REPORTS FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU, JOVIC YEE AND MARLON RAMOS
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