'No consideration': In pain, PWD with walking ailment forced to personally claim aid at CSWD

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
'No consideration': In pain, PWD with walking ailment forced to personally claim aid at CSWD
"My wife went here four times and you never came," he said in the video. 
Screengrab / Roy Moral on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2: April 30, 2020; 11:52 a.m.) — No consideration. 

This was how a person with disability (PWD) from Imus City, Cavite—for whom walking is a virtual impossibility—described the Imus City Social Welfare and Development Office after he was asked to travel to its city office to receive cash aid. 

Under the Local Government Code, many functions of national government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development have been devolved to local government units.

Barangay Poblacion I-A resident, 42-year-old Roy Moral suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a condition he contracted when he was 16-years-old, which later caused him a bone complication known as venous stasis ulcers.

Not only does the former school teacher experience excruciating pain in his legs when he tries to walk, but he is also now more prone to contracting viruses and diseases—including the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

According to Moral, his local Persons with Disability Affairs Office announced on April 16, the day he was supposedly going to receive his cash aid, that PWDs along with senior citizens and pregnant women would be delivered their aid directly by the office.  

Most of the money, Moral said, would go into buying his medication: pain reliever and maintenance medicines for his high blood. 

After days without a word, his wife was forced to go to the City Social Welfare and Development Office on his behalf only to be told that his "physical presence" was required despite her presenting the necessary authorization letter, papers, PWD identification and even once showing up with their barangay councilor. 

Moral said his wife was told that his physical presence was required so the office could take a picture of him being handed the money. 

Social amelioration

In the same video, Moral is seen writhing in pain on a hospital bed, after taking an ambulance provided by his barangay for him to personally reach the CSWD's office. 

"My wife went here four times and you never came," he told staff members of the CSWDO in Filipino in his video. 

They did not bother looking at the documents she brought, he told Philstar.com.

DSWD's social amelioration program is intended to assist affected and low-income sectors, which include PWDs, by providing them P5,000 to P8,000 a month amid the enhanced community quarantine, though many families on the ground have said that they have not yet received aid.

When Moral could still teach, he was the sole breadwinner of his family, a responsibility that his wife has since taken up: she now works as a call center agent under a no work, no pay arrangement amid the enhanced community quarantine. 

"Because of this, we really don't have livelihood or money. That's why it was so important for me to get the money on the 16th. But on the 25th, I was really forced to get on a stretcher just to go there and appeal to them. They didn't want to give it to my wife, it really had to be me to get the money," Moral said in a phone call in Filipino. 

As soon as Moral got there, lying on a stretcher and driven in an ambulance, his cash aid was released. 

Moral reasoned that since he was really on the masterlist for beneficiaries, he could have gotten his money sooner. 

"I got the money, but they really gave me a hard time in getting my SAP. They made me wait for two weeks. For two weeks on different days, my wife went back and forth with the supporting documents, but they still didn't release the funds, and they still asked for me."

No consideration for the disabled

Luzon's lockdown has left the disabled without many chances to survive: if they break quarantine, they risk transmission of the virus, which has proven to be more fatal and more transmissible for those already living with a sickness.

But if they do observe the quarantine and stay indoors, they risk aggravating their existing conditions without proper healthcare and medicine, with many PWD families living in poverty worsened by no work, no pay arrangements.

"When I can't take my medication, I'm really in pain. I wish they would have given someone like me consideration. I gave them all the requirements," Moral said. 

READ: Social distancing's victims: In a Luzon quarantine, the disabled are mostly forgotten

In a statement, advocate organization PWD Philippines said: "Bakit ba pinapahirapan ang mga kapatid natin sa kapansanan?

(Why do they have to make things harder for our brothers in the disability community?)

"Is this even right, that you have no consideration for PWDs like me? That's why I'm posting this, so that this doesn't happen again to another PWD," Moral wrote in Filipino in his post. 

President Rodrigo Duterte's last two reports to Congress have seen the Department of Social Welfare and Development looking for ways to speed up the release of subsidies to Filipinos affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sought for comment, PWD Philippines president Arpee Lazaro told Philstar.com, "Our opinion is that the law must be followed which means all senior citizens, PWDs and marginalized and vulnerable members of society must be given their subsidy first before everybody else."

Many Filipinos have said they had not yet received government aid, over a month after the president was granted sweeping special powers—a claim corroborated by his fifth report, which disclosed that while cash aid had already been received by most local government units, this has, for the most part, not yet trickled down to a significant percentage of its intended target beneficiaries. 

"If this rule is followed there will be no problem nor miscommunication. Similarly, the LGU people must not delay in processing their MOAs with the national government so that the assistance will [get] to the people in a timely fashion," Lazaro added. 

"This is too much, DSWD. This is not human," a commenter wrote in Filipino. 

DSWD, DILG working closely

Speaking in an interview with ANC later Wednesday afternoon, DSWD Undersecretary Rene Glen Paje said: "There are quite a number of areas that haven't completed distribution of SAPs. Different LGUs have different reasons in the delay."

"We can assure you that the DSWD and DILG are working closely with each other in order to hasten the transfer of funds and distribution of social amelioration to beneficiaries," he added. 

The Interior Department echoed this sentiment at Thursday morning's Laging Handa Briefing as DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño said that the department would be investigating instances of late aid. 

"All mayors have been doubling time after the SAP distribution deadline was announced. We will investigate why some are not delivered immediately. Our people really need it, because they have been home for a few days," he said. 

Sought for comment by Philstar.com,DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said: "In the distribution of assistance, DSWD reminds our partners in implementation that payout should be done through door-to-door specially for the senior citizens and persons with disability."

"If door-to-door is not possible,  healthy and abled-body member of the family should be allowed to receive the aid," she added. 

(Editor's note: This article has been corrected to clarify that the City Social Welfare and Development Office is not under the DSWD as earlier reported. We apologize for the error.)




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