In this April 3, 2020 photo, a resident of Barangay Vitalez in Parañaque City holds up an envelope containing P8,000 during the distribution of the social amelioration fund for poor households affected by the Luzon-wide quarantine.
Krizjohn Rosales
Local officials warned: Don't use social aid package for politicking
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 6, 2020 - 8:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Monday warned local officials against using the government's aid program for politicking, saying they won't escape accountability for their actions.

IATF spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the national task force implementing the policy on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and security forces would closely monitor the distribution of aid to sectors affected by the Luzon-wide lockdown.

He said state auditors would also find out whether abuses were committed during the delivery of assistance.

"Many (agencies) are on guard and of course we will check the list of beneficiaries," Nograles said in a televised press briefing.

"If you don't get caught now, you would eventually get caught once this (pandemic) is over... Everything will be audited... If there are irregularities...if you don't give aid to people just because they are not your allies or for whatever reason...do not think that you won't get caught," he added.

The government has unveiled a P200-billion social aid package designed to help 18 million families and workers who lost livelihoods because of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon from March 17 to April 13.

The amount of cash aid ranges from P5,000 to P8,000, depending on the minimum wage in the region where the beneficiaries are located.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte barred politicians from distributing assistance coming from the national government, saying he has received complaints about officials taking a cut from the donations.

The DSWD was tasked to take charge of the aid distribution to shield the social amelioration program from political patronage. LGUs, however, can still provide relief using their quick response funds.

"If there are discrepancies, if we receive reports, we would investigate immediately. We have the full strength of the Office of the President, including the Anti-Red Tape Act and the Presidential Anti-Corruption (Commission). Of course the Ombudsman is also there although that’s separate from the Office of the President," Nograles said.

"If there are discrepancies or cheating, we have mechanisms for that," he added. 

Seniors with pensions, 4Ps beneficiaries excluded

Nograles also clarified that senior citizens who are receiving pension from other sources other than DSWD are excluded from the social amelioration program. He said the cash aid prioritizes the elderly who belong to low-income families.

"The first criteria is low-income families and among low-income families, priority is senior citizens," Nograles said.

Nograles said beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which provides allowances to poor families who send their children to school or avail of state health services, won't be given social amelioration cards because they were already considered in the list of beneficiaries of the cash aid.

"Since the 4Ps beneficiaries are part of the national database and they are receiving help through their cash cards, they are no longer included in the list of those who will be given social amelioration cards of the LGU," he said.

"So noong namahagi po ng allocation ang DSWD sa mga LGUs, considered na po doon iyong mga 4Ps na dapat hindi na isasama doon sa social amelioration card dahil mayroon na silang natanggap (When the DSWD provided allocation to LGUs, the 4Ps beneficiaries have already been considered there and should no longer be included in the social amelioration card because they are already receiving something)," he added.

Nograles also urged those who can afford to buy their basic needs not to avail of the social amelioration package.

"If you are not an informal worker, do not insist on joining the program because our priority is the poor. Our countrymen should undergo self-assessment," he said.

Nograles said the DSWD has transferred money to the cash cards of the beneficiaries of the 4Ps.

The 4Ps beneficiaries with cash cards in Ilocos, Cagayan, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao received their emergency cash subsidies last Friday. The rest of the regions received their cash assistance last Saturday and Sunday.

Out of the total 4Ps beneficiaries, more than 3.6 million with cash cards nationwide were provided with the subsidy with a total budget allocation of more than P16.3 billion, Nograles said. Beneficiaries of 4Ps who do not have cash card may download their funds from DSWD regional offices. 

ENHANCED COMMUNITY QUARANTINE LUZON LOCKDOWN NOVEL CORONAVIRUS SOCIAL AMELIORATION PROGRAM
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