Senators on Sunday agreed that local governments needed to be given a bigger role in the distribution of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cash assistance to low-income households as this would likely speed up the process.
In a statement, Senator Panfilo Lacson said this his position had always been that "LGUs be made to submit the data, subject to vetting by the national agencies" since the rehabilitation efforts for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
"Unfortunately, and this is a recurring mistake, what they are implementing now is a top-down mode of listing and distribution instead of a bottom-up approach, hence an obvious disconnect between needs and priorities of the rightful recipients," Lacson argued.
"More than the central government, the LGUs have a better grasp of their constituents' needs through their community-based surveys being undertaken periodically."
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte earlier slammed the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its "cumbersome set of rules" that delayed the distribution of the P5,000 to P8,000 emergency cash subsidy for low-income families affected by the COVID-19 situation.
Villafuerte claimed that the DSWD had been making "unnecessary" bureaucratic procedures that only delayed the process, and failed to immediately release the requirements needed to allow LGUs to download the funds.
Lacson said that he too had received complaints of incorrect data that did not match the reality on the ground. Mayors likewise were complaining that they bore the brunt of the blame and protests from their constituents due to "too much centralization."
"Unless immediate adjustments are made by the DSWD and other support agencies, I'm afraid the very purpose of the social amelioration program and the disbursement of the P200 billion will not be accomplished," said the senator.
"Worse, and I sincerely hope not, a potential social problem might occur due to loss of income brought about by a prolonged business inactivity and work stoppage affecting a large segment of our labor force particularly the daily wage earners."
For his part, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said that to properly distribute the cash assistance to those who really needed it, the "most logical solution" was a partnership between the LGU and the national government.
"The LGU will provide the on-the-ground manpower and knowledge while the national government will do the validation and distribution. National government can also use existing database, albeit not complete, such as the Listahanan or NHTS," said Gatchalian.
"The key is to minimize leakage because the lack of a national database will always yield to an imperfect system."
Senator Francis Tolentino agreed that LGUs needed to have a greater role in the distribution of the cash subsidy as they had the manpower and the mechanisms to accomplish this.
"The LGUs should have a shared role and responsibility as they know better the demographics in their respective communities," Tolentino said.
"I would hasten to add that the private sector can be of great help likewise especially the banking institutions and even the community-based rural banks as more helping hands would ensure faster implementation and transparency."
DWSD spokesperson Director Irene Dumlao on Sunday said the DSWD had started giving out the cash subsidy for qualified beneficiaries, whether they were part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or not. — DVM, GMA News