Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte on Wednesday slammed the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its "cumbersome set of rules" that delayed the release of the cash subsidy for low-income households affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation.
In a statement, Villafuerte lashed out at the DSWD for committing two "bureaucratic" blunders that only delayed the release of the funds for the Emergency Subsidy Program to target beneficiaries 10 days after the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act was approved by Congress.
“The DSWD leadership appears bereft of any sense of urgency at this time when millions of poor and low-income Filipino families have been struggling to survive two weeks into the period of personal-movement restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19," he said.
Under the ESP, around 18 million low-income households belonging to the informal sector will be targeted to receive monthly emergency subsidies amounting to P5,000 to P8,000 for two months.
“At the rate the DSWD is taking its own sweet time in implementing a cumbersome set of rules on how the emergency funds are to be downloaded to LGUs, it may probably take a month before the target beneficiaries are finally able to get the first tranche of their P5,000 to P8,000 cash transfers per household," Villafuerte said.
First, Villafuerte said the DSWD failed to immediately give out the required forms to all local government units (LGU) for them to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement which is required for the release of the ESP funds.
According to him, ESP funds can only be downloaded to LGUs through their accredited banks once the MOA is signed between the local chief executives and the DSWD.
“Right now, not a single LGU has entered into a MOA with the DSWD because it has started to do only now what it should have accomplished last week yet, which was to send the requisite MOA documents to each and every LGU covered by the Bayanihan Act,” Villafuerte said.
Apart from this, Villafuerte said the DSWD has required target beneficiaries issued with social amelioration cards (SACs) to be certified and endorsed first by their respective barangay chairperson and then validated by the municipal or city offices of the DSWD before they could receive their cash subsidy.
The House leader said this is an "unnecessary" bureaucratic layer prone to politicking and corruption.
“It should be enough for the city and municipal DSWD offices to validate the list of ESP beneficiaries in every barangay to speed up the identification process and release of cash transfers to every target household,” he said.
Villafuerte said it is tricky to empower barangay officials in the distribution of cash subsidy as they may exclude families whose adult members did not vote for them in past elections.
Corruption is also possible if this would continue, he added, citing reports that barangay officials were caught selling quarantine passes that were supposed to be given to residents for free.
Moreover, Villafuerte said the DSWD has required SACs to be barcoded instead of just requiring LGUs to submit standard forms to identify beneficiaries.
“This barcoding requirement presents its own set of bureaucratic snag because this would mean a different system for each and every barangay covered by the ESP, instead of just requiring the submission of standard profiling forms that the barangays can accomplish quickly enough," he said.
“What happens to barangays without available barcode encoders or those without barcode devices? Where and how are barangays going to purchase such devices at this period of a month-long lockdown?" he added.
Villafuerte called on the DSWD to fix its rules as soon as possible, because the next big challenge for them is how barangay officials will hand over the cash subsidy to intended beneficiaries at the quickest possible time.
This, he said, may likely be done on a house-to-house basis in order to observe social distancing and avoid infection.
Villafuerte said the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act has endorsed the DSWD's request to the Commission on Audit to relax the procedures in releasing the cash subsidy to LGUs. —LDF, GMA News