“I told you, do not taint the COVID programs with anomalies because many people need help. I won’t forgive you if you commit mistakes. So the law is the law is the law. A rule is a rule is a rule and... when you begin to mess up with the law, I guarantee you, you would really land in jail,” Duterte said.
King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo, file
Duterte transfers SAP distribution to AFP, PNP
Michael Punongbayan, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration will no longer download aid funds to local government units (LGUs) and will instead tap state security forces to distribute the second tranche of assistance for sectors sidelined by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista said state agencies are working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure that aid will reach far-flung and isolated areas.

“Mr. President, with regard to your directive not to download funds to LGUs and to tap the AFP and PNP for the distribution of aid for the second tranche, we have made an initial coordination with the leadership of AFP and PNP so they can help in the distribution of assistance, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, island barangays and island municipalities,” Bautista, addressing President Duterte, said in a meeting of the government’s pandemic task force late Tuesday night.

The national government downloaded aid funds to LGUs during the first tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP), which aims to provide emergency subsidies to low-income households and workers affected by quarantine restrictions.

There have been complaints about the supposed misuse of SAP funds by local executives and the slow distribution of aid in some areas, prompting the government to assess the implementation of the program.

“I told you, do not taint the COVID programs with anomalies because many people need help. I won’t forgive you if you commit mistakes. So the law is the law is the law. A rule is a rule is a rule and... when you begin to mess up with the law, I guarantee you, you would really land in jail,” Duterte said.

“Everything is transparent, especially with the billions we are giving away. I assure you we will be able to account for it except those who were malversed by the officials down in the local governments. They have to answer for it. But otherwise, to the last centavo, we have given to the people,” he added.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the first tranche of SAP distribution is 97 percent complete, with the regions of Ilocos, Bicol, SOCCSKSARGEN and Caraga the earliest to finish the giving of aid.

Año added that anomalies have been monitored in the implementation of the program, which sought to help at least 18 million households.

A total of 183 barangay officials are being investigated by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, while 48 mayors were asked to explain why they failed to meet the deadline on the aid distribution or why their accomplishment rate was below 80 percent.

Año said 12 cases have been filed over alleged irregularities in the aid distribution, four are about to be filed and 58 are still being handled by authorities. Two persons have also been arrested and jailed.

“We have ordered LGUs to post the names of those who received assistance for transparency. We have also received reports that some beneficiaries were given aid twice and we want their names posted as well,” he said.

Local governments have also been directed to submit the names of individuals left out during the first tranche of SAP.

The government aims to assist about five million households who did not receive monetary aid during the initial phase of the program.

Bautista said the government would also tap digital payments in highly urbanized areas to minimize contact with beneficiaries.

“Since we already have remittance centers, banks in highly urbanized cities, the distribution of assistance to beneficiaries would be easier,” the social welfare chief said.

He added that the military already has a model for the giving of aid to SAP beneficiaries.

“They used the model during the election, but they will adjust it and tailor-fit it with the nationwide distribution of aid,” he said.

About 20.3 million beneficiaries are expected to receive aid from the second tranche of the government’s emergency assistance programs.

Military help

Responding to Duterte’s directive for soldiers to help in the distribution of the second tranche of SAP, the military said it is looking at particularly helping in problematic areas.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said that has been planned, including coordination to identify where soldiers will play a role in giving out cash assistance to low-income families.

Arevalo noted that following talks between the military and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the AFP proposed to provide the necessary assistance to the DSWD in the priority distribution of SAP in identified problematic locations.

He added that these areas include those with reported anomalies and geographically isolated barangays.

The AFP will also be deployed to help in SAP distribution “in locations where communist terrorist groups and other threat groups prevent the orderly distribution of SAP.”

“We will employ in this task our experience in distributing election paraphernalia during local polls,” Arevalo said yesterday, giving assurance that the AFP can handle the job.

“This may affect our security operations only in terms of adjustments in troops deployment, but not enough to hamper operational success,” he added.

PNP assistance

The PNP confirmed it would assist the government in the distribution of the second tranche of SAP.

“In compliance with PRRD’s orders, the 205,000-strong PNP will help facilitate the distribution of the second tranche of the government’s cash subsidy,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said yesterday in a statement.

The PNP is constantly coordinating with the DSWD and the AFP in mapping out systems and procedures to ensure smooth distribution of the cash aid to qualified beneficiaries, according to Banac.

“The PNP is honored to be able to help in giving aid to the citizens, especially those who are in far-flung and isolated areas,” he said in Filipino.

Meanwhile, a key official of the House of Representatives suggested yesterday that Duterte expand SAP under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to include areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

“He has the authority to do that. In fact, based on the statements of his presidential spokesman and former congressman Harry Roque, the President wants five million more poor families to be given financial assistance,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

This means that the administration would want a total of 23 million families covered by SAP, if there are enough funds.

Rodriguez pointed out the law authorizes the President to give financial aid of P5,000 to P8,000 for two months to “around 18 million low-income households.”

“I urge the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 to be guided by the President’s statements, instead of trying to reduce the number of recipients by the millions,” Rodriguez said.

The IATF was reported to have recommended that poor families in GCQ areas should not get SAP assistance this month and that only those in communities covered by enhanced community quarantine and modified ECQ would receive it.

The task force had earlier classified most provinces as GCQ areas, while placing Metro Manila and several parts of central and southern Luzon under MECQ. Emmanuel Tupas, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Rainier Allan Ronda

AFP PNP RODRIGO DUTERTE SOCIAL AMELIORATION PROGRAM
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