MANILA, Philippines — Only 104 of 1,632 local government units (LGUs) met the April 30 deadline for full payout of the P5,000 to P8,000 emergency cash subsidy for low-income families under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), meant to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
This was according to Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, citing a tally made on Wednesday.
Irene Dumlao, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) social marketing service officer-in-charge, said that of the 104 LGUs that completed the payout, only 10 were able to do a 100 percent liquidation of the SAP funds they had received from the DSWD and distributed to eligible families in their jurisdictions.
She identified the 10 LGUs as Adams, Ilocos Norte in Region 1; Pandi and San Miguel both in Bulacan in Region 3; Casiguran, Sorsogon; and San Vicente, Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region; Jordan, Guimaras; Buenavista, Guimaras; and EB Magalona, Negros Occidental in Region 6; and Sulop and Taragona both in Davao del Sur in Region 11.
He said he had allowed partial liquidation, or the submission of early liquidation reports by LGUs, so that the DSWD can start necessary validation. Validation checks, he pointed out, will take no more than 15 days.
Bautista said that as of April 29, the DSWD has distributed P80.8 billion of the SAP funds to 1,515 LGUs.
“Overall, more than P50 billion from DSWD had been distributed among 9.4 million SAP beneficiaries in the first tranche,” he said in Filipino.
Senior citizen rights advocate Romulo Macalintal said the government should consider clustering or grouping contiguous barangays in big or heavily populated LGUs to smoothen the distribution of SAP.
“Barangays with small number of beneficiaries could be merged or grouped with other barangays which have not yet reached the maximum number of beneficiaries they could serve at a given time. Distribution of funds shall be properly scheduled per clustered barangay and should be with full adherence to health protocols versus COVID-19,” Macalintal said.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima said the Duterte administration should stop blaming “pasaways” or stubborn people who violate quarantine rules for its decision to extend the lockdown.
“Don’t use the people as your punching bag for your frustrations because of your blunders. Maybe you’ve forgotten that we’re going through this Calvary because of you,” De Lima said in a statement written in Filipino.
“You were the ones who brought in the Chinese Communist Party virus. You didn’t act quickly. You belittled and joked about it. And now we’re all reeling from the COVID-19 and you’re now violating human rights,” she said.
“You paint an image of unruly, disobedient and lawless citizens to justify your lust for martial law – the reason some of our ECQ enforcers get the wrong message and see the situation more as a peace-and-order crisis than as a serious health concern,” De Lima said.
A House panel, meanwhile, has proposed a recalibration in the implementation of the government’s P200-billion SAP.
The Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC)’s social amelioration cluster has sought changes in rules and procedures of SAP to be able to reach more beneficiaries in the implementation of the second phase of the program this month.
Panel chair and Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez presented the proposal to the DCC and DSWD’s Bautista at a virtual hearing on the implementation of measures to address the crisis.
Gomez said the DSWD should set a uniform P5,000 cash subsidy for qualified families in the National Capital Region and provinces, as compared with the unequal distribution of P8,000 per family in NCR and P5,000 to P6,500 in provinces – depending on minimum wage set per region.
This way, the lawmaker stressed that the second phase of SAP will reach over 20 million families as compared with the 18 million families targeted by the program under Republic Act 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Law).
“There is enough money for 20 million families and we can also simplify the process,” stressed Gomez, also chair of the House committee on disaster management.
The cluster suggested to the DSWD to continue direct distribution of the cash aid among four million beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), just like in the first phase of SAP.
For the other 16 million poor families not covered by 4Ps, Gomez said the barangays will be required to come up with lists of families living below the 85th income percentile in their respective constituencies to be collated by the local and provincial governments and then submitted to DSWD.
She said their computation showed that around 16 million families are below the threshold.
She said the DSWD may then distribute the cash aid to families in the list, requiring only the ID of the head of the family, signed receipt and photo of recipient.
At the same hearing, Bautista reported to lawmakers that a total of 10,135,634 families have already received cash aid under the SAP.
This represents only about 55 percent of the 18 million target beneficiaries of the program, which was intended to provide financial assistance to poor families while the ECQ is in effect.
The DSWD chief further bared that over P53.8 billion of the P100-billion budget for the first phase of SAP had been distributed to beneficiaries.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases had originally required LGUs to complete the distribution of the first phase of SAP by April 30, but extended the deadline by a week due to challenges in populous localities.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it is nearing completion of its two programs aimed at providing financial aid to affected workers – Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Displaced Workers (TUPAD) and COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP).
DOLE revealed to lawmakers at the same hearing that over P993 million or 87 percent of the P1.146-billion fund for TUPAD had been distributed among 313,700 beneficiaries.
On the other hand, P2.6 billion of the P3.25 billion or 80 percent of CAMP funds had been delivered to 522,855 beneficiaries. – Edu Punay, Paolo Romero