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2nd tranche of cash aid next week?

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) may start downloading the se­cond tranche of the government’s cash subsidy for the poor next week, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Wednesday. To avoid chaos, soldiers will be tapped to help distribute the cash from house to house, Año said.

The government has released P200 billion to be given to nearly 18 million low-income families in two tranches in April and May. Beset by delays, confusion and irregularities, the distribution of the first tranche has yet to be completed.

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As of Tuesday, P98.4 billion has been distributed to 17.36 million families who took the brunt of the lockdown, officials said.

“We really want to fast-track the second tranche and we want to start with the 5 million [families left out of the first tranche],’’ Año said in a televised interview.

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On top of the 18 million fa­milies, President Duterte later said he was authorizing an additional 5 million beneficiaries.

The DSWD, however, said it was still waiting for a “written directive’’ from Malacañang specifying the source of fund for this, and clarifying the inclusion of areas under general community quarantine in the distribution. Año said he would discuss with Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista the downloading of the second tranche and its mode of distribution, including ways to fast-track the payout to families.

House to house

“Instead of designating a distribution point, which is a bit chaotic, we will go house to house. We can ask for the military’s help,’’ said the former Armed Forces chief.

Bautista, for his part, pressed 400 remaining local government units (LGUs) to wrap up their distribution of the first tranche.

As of Wednesday, 1,234 of the 1,634 LGUs have completed their payouts, he said.

“I hope they will fast-track the distribution of the social amelioration program aid because the implication is that, if there is delay in distribution, there will also be a delay in liquidation, which will cause a domino effect,” Bautista said in a briefing. “For those in high-risk areas, please already consider using alternative plans to finish distribution right away,” he added. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra meanwhile told state prosecutors to prioritize the criminal complaints filed against local government officials who allegedly mishandled the cash aid for the disadvantaged.

“These cases take on a si­nister and disgraceful character considering that money intended for poor hungry people is unlawfully taken away from them,” he said.

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Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said he had instruc­ted all city and provincial prosecutor chiefs to set the complaints for preliminary investigation “as soon as possible, to monitor the progress and report to us.” The Philippine National Police has filed complaints against 23 barangay officials and is investigating more than 100 o­thers for anomalies in the cash distribution.

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