DSWD, DILG urged: Fix problems affecting safe, speedy release of 'ayuda'
Residents of Batasan Hills in Quezon City line up to receive their financial assistance from the government on the second day of distribution on April 8, 2021.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

DSWD, DILG urged: Fix problems affecting safe, speedy release of 'ayuda'

(Philstar.com) - April 19, 2021 - 1:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to address reported problems surrounding the latest release of cash aid to struggling Filipinos, such as erroneous lists and crowded distribution venues.

This comes after the two departments disclosed in separate issuances that just 40% of allocated funds for cash aid or ayuda has been so far distributed in Metro Manila and only 29.2% overall within the so-called NCR+ Plus regions. Under the national government's aid or ayuda distribution, each target beneficiary shall receive P1,000 in cash or kind — an amount that progressive groups have slammed as grossly insufficient.

In a statement, Sen. Risa Hontiveros noted the growing number of incidents stemming mainly from errors in the government's list of beneficiaries for the cash distribution program, ranging from the inclusion of deceased persons or minors on the list, along with reports of beneficiaries who were not included in the list because they were not voters in the area.

"These stories are way too many to be mere fabrications and should be fully investigated. It is unfortunate that it's already 2021 and yet the process of providing assistance is still not smooth," Hontiveros said in mixed Filipino and English.

"Our people line up for a long time just to get help, but when they arrive at the distribution venue, many were not on the list and no one could go home to their families. There has been an entire year to fix the database of cash aid recipients and devise a better aid distribution, but it seems not much progress has been made."

The DSWD and DILG should also remove errors in government's list of aid beneficiaries, including removing dead, fictitious or unqualified persons, Hontiveros said, adding that government officials or employees involved in acts of corruption or fraud using these assistance funds should be immediately investigated and prosecuted.

The senator in her statement urged the DSWD and DILG to create a unified and comprehensive database of cash aid recipients from the various existing lists of aid beneficiaries held by the DSWD and local government units.

Hontiveros said the DSWD would need to complete its 'poverty survey' to determine the true number and identities of poor Filipinos who need financial assistance during the pandemic, adding that due to erroneous lists of beneficiaries and other logistical issues, the aid distribution venues in several areas gets regularly crowded with applicants, which she said creates the potential for "super-spreaders" of the coronavirus. 

"This is disturbing, because among those queuing and scrambling for help are many senior citizens who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other diseases," she said. 

The senator also reminded local officials to ensure health protocols, such as physical distancing and wearing of masks, are followed. 

"The government should act with a sense of urgency and due diligence. The lives of Filipinos are hinged on this. If the government is slow to provide aid, the people may not die of the virus but of starvation," she said.

"Aid given to our countrymen is already small, I hope that it will not be prolonged or pocketed. The DSWD and DILG should look closely into all reports of problems involving the distribution of financial assistance, which is a matter of life and death for many Filipinos during this crisis."

— Franco Luna 

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