DOLE taps NBI in TUPAD anomaly probe

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
DOLE taps NBI in TUPAD anomaly probe
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III meets yesterday with Batasan Hills residents who complained of irregularities in a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment run by the national government.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment has sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in looking into the alleged anomaly in the implementation of the DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD program.

More complainants from another barangay in Quezon City’s second district surfaced yesterday to reveal supposed irregularities in the distribution of cash aid to workers displaced by the pandemic.

Accompanied by NBI investigators, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III met with some 100 TUPAD beneficiaries from Barangay Batasan Hills, who claimed to have received only a small portion of the cash assistance that they should have received from the national government.

Bello assured the residents of Quezon City that they would be given legitimate employment under the cash-for-work program once the probe is finished.

“They need assistance so I told them that we will implement the program, but we will course it through the barangay captains,” Bello said. “The NBI will get their statement in order for us to know what really happened.”

Bello said some P59 million in cash aid has been allotted for TUPAD beneficiaries in Quezon City following his directive to suspend the program in districts 1, 2 and 5.

TUPAD is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, including those affected by the pandemic.

Under the program, beneficiaries will have to render community work for 10 to 30 days, with their salaries based on the regional minimum wage.

Many of the complainants in Quezon City’s second district said they received cash assistance under TUPAD despite not being required to work by the project implementers.

Earlier this month, hundreds of TUPAD beneficiaries in Barangay Holy Spirit complained that they received only P2,000 instead of P7,518 allocated per beneficiary.

According to one of the coordinators of the program, she was instructed to accompany the beneficiaries to remittance centers and deduct P5,518 from the cash aid.

DOLE National Capital Region director Sarah Buena Mirasol confirmed that the particular TUPAD project in Barangay Holy Spirit was implemented in partnership with the office of Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo.

“We will give them opportunity to answer, to enlighten us, to shed light in the probe. They said that they will cooperate,” Mirasol said.

Castelo’s office, through lawyer Joey Blando, earlier vowed to look into the allegation that one of her employees was involved in the alleged anomaly.

Blando said the congresswoman does not tolerate such corrupt practice, if proven to be true.

Mirasol said they would launch a separate investigation into the complaints of TUPAD beneficiaries from Barangay Batasan Hills, adding that they have yet to determine specific details of the project, including its co-implementor.

Barangay Batasan Hills chairman Jojo Abad said some 1,000 residents were affected by the alleged anomaly.

Abad said they are ready to continue the implementation of the cash-for-work program if the DOLE decides to course it through the barangays.

In the nearby Barangay Bagong Silangan, which is also located in District 2, chairman Wilfredo Cara said he has also received similar complaints from the residents. He said he would coordinate with the DOLE for appropriate action.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte had expressed full support to the investigation on supposed irregularities in the implementation of the TUPAD project.

Aside from DOLE, Belmonte said other agencies should look into the alleged anomaly, particularly the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Commission on Audit.

The local government is not involved in the implementation of the specific TUPAD program in the city’s second district, according to Belmonte.

City hall’s only TUPAD program was for the hiring of contact tracers who help the local government in its campaign to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the communities.

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