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Recto questions DSWD for downsizing SAP beneficiaries from 18M to 14M

/ 03:24 PM September 22, 2020
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Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto. File photo / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday questioned the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) over the trimmed number of low-income families covered in the second round of subsidy distribution under the social amelioration program (SAP) amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During the Senate deliberations on the proposed P171-billion budget of the DSWD for 2021, Recto asked the agency why not all of the 18 million families covered in the first round of SAP distribution were no longer given aid in the second tranche.

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“We’ve received reports that not all beneficiaries have received their second SAP,” the senator said.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista confirmed this, saying that from the original target of 18 million families, it was reduced to 14 million.

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But Recto pointed out that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which provided funding for the SAP implementation, states that 18 million families should receive cash assistance in both tranches.

“The Bayanihan 1 appropriated two tranches for 18 million families. The budget allocated in Bayanihan 1 was for two tranches of SAP for 18 million families,” he said.

President’s instruction

DSWD chief legal officer Paul Tacorda explained to senators that the agency was “tasked” by the Office of the President (OP) to “serve only about 12 million to 14 million of the first tranche.”

This, to make way for the provision of aid to the “waitlisted group” identified by President Rodrigo Duterte who also needs assistance aside from the low-income families covered in the first round of SAP aid distribution.

“In as much as the department would have wanted to serve the same 18 million catered in the first tranche, we were tasked by the Office of the President and pursuant to the collegial decision of the member agencies of the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases),” Tacorda said.

He noted that the instruction from the President’s office was contained under a memorandum dated May 22, 2020, issued by the OP and the IATF specifying which areas were still placed under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ at the time.

“Only those areas specified in that memorandum were given social amelioration emergency subsidy,” he added.

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Tacorda further explained that the instruction from the OP was also due to the “clamor” of some local government units, like Cavite, that emergency subsidies also be given to their additional beneficiaries who do not belong to the informal sector and are not originally targeted by the DSWD for the SAP’s first tranche.

“The OP was prompted to consider their pleas, and as such IATF-EID was tasked to consider these beneficiaries. Hence, the DSWD followed the modifications introduced by IATF-EID as a collegial body, and approved by the President that waitlisted beneficiaries be paid,” he said.

“To categorically answer the question of Senator Recto. The four million [family beneficiaries] that were not [covered] in the second tranche was because of these instructions from the OP and to cover the waitlisted beneficiaries who also suffered because of the COVID-19,” Tacorda added.

Recto then asked DSWD officials of what will happen to the four million family beneficiaries who were no longer covered in the second tranche.

“Don’t we have a list of the 18 million families, to begin with? The first tranche? May listahan tayo non, ‘di ba [We a list for that, right]?” the senator said.

In response, Bautista explained that during the validation of beneficiaries for the second tranche the DSWD was able to discover that there were a lot of family beneficiaries covered in the first round of SAP “received more than one subsidy.”

“Meaning to say, one family might have received an emergency subsidy from DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) or DA (Department of Agriculture) and also from DSWD,” he added.

“So what we did was those who we have identified as double compensation, we did not include them in the second tranche,” Bautista said.

P10B ‘savings’

“How much is the savings now?” Recto then asked.

Some P10 billion remains unspent, according to the DSWD chief.

“Out of the budget provided by DBM (Department of Budget and Management), we have a remaining of P10 billion. It’s still on our fund and depending on what the instruction from the DBM is, whether to return this or realign this to other projects from the recovery, then we have to surrender this to the DBM or return to the Bureau of Treasury,” Bautista said.

But Recto questioned this, adding that there are still a lot of Filipinos who need assistance.

“Maraming nagtatanong, like in Batangas, marami pang di nakakatanggap ng SAP. In my hometown in Lipa City, I’ve heard of complaints. In Metro Manila, many mayors are complaining that their constituents have not received the second SAP,” he said.

(Many are asking, like in Batangas, a lot of beneficiaries have yet to get SAP.)

“Now we have P10 billion available. It doesn’t make sense to me that this money is returned to the Treasury. As I understood it earlier, there is a waitlist and there was a testimony earlier that the President, in a written document, told you to spend this for other things. Is that correct? So saan natin gagastusin yung remaining P10 billion?” Recto asked.

(So, where do we spend the remaining P10 billion?)

Livelihood aid

DSWD director Resty Macuto told senators that the agency is proposing the provision of P15,000 each to informal vendors as well as sari-sari store owners.

“We have already made our proposal for the P10 billion. We will be covering around 664,726 household for the provision of livelihood assistance grant at P15,000. Yun po ang aming plan [That is our plan]. If it will be given to us to be utilized for the livelihood assistance grant,” Macuto said.

“Ang ating tinatarget po dito yung ating mga kababayan na mga informal vendors, yung mga nasa palengke, yung nagtitinda ng mga gulay, yung iba sari-sari store. We have already oriented our LGUs for this particular program,” he added.

(What we are targeting here are our fellow countrymen who are so-called informal vendors, those who are in the market selling vegetables and those who have sari-sari store.)

JPV
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