LGU help puts order in DSWD aid payout
MANILA, Philippines — It was a vast improvement from last week’s chaotic scenes at the main and regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
This time, the agency headed by Secretary Erwin Tulfo managed to proceed with its educational assistance program in a more orderly fashion. There were still long lines, but minus the confusion and other aggravations.
At the DSWD office in Sampaloc, Manila, one of the employees, Holly Hope Dato-on, even did song numbers for the applicants as they waited in line.
Marlouie Sulima, director of the DSWD Public Information Office, acknowledged that “it (Dato-on’s performance) was a gimmick by the DSWD-NCR to entertain the crowd.”
Speaking to reporters, DSWD spokesperson Romel Lopez said “The payout today was an improved version from [Aug. 20]. We promise [that] with the help of the (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and (local government units, or LGUs), we will strive for a better implementation of this program.”
The initial distribution of the educational assistance, one of several aid packages of the DSWD under its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program, was marked by confusion and disorder the previous Saturday, as thousands crowded the gates of the department’s main office in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, and other satellite offices.
In Zamboanga City, a stampede at the coliseum where the DSWD set up a processing desk injured at least 29 people.
Tulfo then issued a public apology and stressed that the applicants should first register online and just wait for a message from the agency.
The DSWD received help from LGUs mainly in terms of personnel, logistical support and information dissemination.
Before, only DSWD staff members handled the whole process—from application, screening, assessment to release of payment.
This time, local government social workers helped in the screening. The LGUs also lent their facilities (chairs, tables and sound systems).
There is also a clearer role now for the Philippine National Police as marshals keeping the outdoor gatherings calm and orderly—something belatedly realized on the earlier payout day.
Many among those who lined up at the DSWD offices said they followed Tulfo’s advice and got a text message from the department, directing them to proceed to their designated payout centers.
But one such applicant, John Michael Mabini, said he had yet to hear from the DSWD even after registering.
“I [might] follow up … if I still won’t receive any confirmation text soon,” said the college freshman, who did not return to the DSWD-NCR office in Sampaloc yesterday precisely because of the advice from the DSWD chief.
Mabini was among those who queued outside that office on Aug. 20 and saw the line of applicants stretching about three blocks from Jhocson to Galicia Streets.
Tulfo earlier said what happened on Aug. 20 was “a lesson which we learned well [and] an eye-opener to the extent of the need of the Filipinos for aid affected by the pandemic and the inflation.”
The DSWD on Saturday said it was able to hand out cash aid to a total of 42,589 beneficiaries nationwide—14,261 of them, college students; 6,039, senior high school; 9,250, high school; and 13,039, elementary students.
Under the AICS program, P4,000 would be distributed to a beneficiary in college; P3,000 to a graduating high school student; P2,000 to a student in any other level in high school; and P1,000 to a beneficiary in grade school.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles, in a tweet on Saturday, said: “The distribution of the AICS Educational Assistance is more systematic today …. According to reports from regional DSWD offices, the queues at the payout centers are more orderly due to the scheduling for the recipients of the aid.”
Angeles said the DSWD staff members were also present at the payout centers to respond to queries of applicants who have no means to go online for registration.
The distribution of the aid money will continue for four more Saturdays until Sept. 24.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO