DEPUTY speaker for finance Luis Raymund Villafuerte, a principal author of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” on Wednesday slammed the delay in the distribution of government aid to poor families because of red tape laid allegedly down by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Villafuerte said DSWD’s “cumbersome” rules imposed on the release of emergency funds to local government units (LGUs) is preventing 18 million household-beneficiaries from getting their initial P5,000 to P8,000 subsidies.
“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,” Villafuerte said.
“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.
Villafuerte said if DSWD does not drop its rules, it may take a month before the target household beneficiaries are finally able to get the first tranche of their P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistance.
The DSWD and six other agencies have signed Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 to “streamline and harmonize its various social amelioration programs to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 health quarantine and the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) guidelines.”
The six other signatory-agencies to the memorandum are the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), of Budget and Management (DBM), of Trade and Industry (DTI), of Finance (DOF), of Labor (DOLE) and of Agriculture (DA).
Villafuerte said the DSWD is “on a collision course with President Duterte and Congress in imposing intricate yet extraneous and avoidable requirements on the release of funds to LGUs.”
He was referring to the identification of the beneficiary-households who will be issued social amelioration cards (SACs) and the actual ESP transfers to these beneficiaries at the barangay level.
“No wonder that not a single LGU has yet to sign a MOA with the DSWD at this time when the beneficiaries are, ideally, supposed to be getting the first round of their cash transfers already,” he said.
Villafuerte said the DSWD should have released the requisite forms to all LGUs for them to enter into MOAs with the DSWD as soon as the President signed R.A. 11469 last March 24.
Second, said Villafuerte, the DSWD has required that the target beneficiaries issued SACs must first be certified and endorsed by the barangay chairpersons concerned and then validated by the municipal or city offices of the DSWD, before the cash transfers are to be released to the actual 18 million beneficiary-households.
Requiring barangay chairpersons to certify or endorse the list of beneficiaries in their villages, he said, only “creates an unnecessary bureaucratic layer that is vulnerable to politicking and corruption.”
“It should be enough for the city and municipal DSWD offices to validate the list of ESP beneficiaries in every barangay to speed up the identification process and release of cash transfers to every target household,” Villafuerte stressed.
As if these procedures weren’t enough, Villafuerte said the DSWD has required that the SACs be bar-coded instead of simply requiring the LGUs to submit standard forms identifying every ESP beneficiary-household.
“What happens to barangays without available barcode encoders or those without barcode devices? Where and how are barangays going to purchase such devices at this period of a month-long lockdown?” he said.
CASH INSTEAD OF GOODS
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the DSWD should give cash instead of relief goods to the more than 18 million daily wage earners affected by the ECQ.
In an interview over dzMM, Sotto said it is best to give cash assistance to give recipients the leeway to decide what their families need.
Sotto said distributing cash is wiser compared to giving relief goods, which he said still entails the government to purchase, repack, transport and distribute the goods.
The DSWD is reportedly planning to give only a portion of the intended cash to recipients and the rest will be in kind or in the form of relief goods. The DSWD said the move was to prevent the recipients from going out of their houses to buy essentials.
Sotto said the idea to give cash was agreed upon when members of Congress and the executive department met in Malacanang last March 21, or two days before Congress held a special session to pass the Bayanihan Act. – With Raymond Africa