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DSWD 'underperforming' in SAP distribution, says Gatchalian

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) over the delay in the distribution of the second tranche of emergency cash aid for poor families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a virtual interview with reporters, Gatchalian said the involuntary hunger experienced by at least 5.2 million Filipino families in previous months could have been prevented if the cash aid from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) was smoothly distributed.

"Isa sa mga underperforming agencies ay itong DSWD dahil ang bola nasa kamay na nila pagdating sa pag-e-execute nitong SAP at hanggang ngayon wala pa rin [ang second tranche]," Gatchalian said.

He stressed that the delayed distribution due to red tape can be considered a "mortal sin."

"'Yung unang SAP, puwede pa natin patawarin na mabagal, magulo, ang database hindi maayos but we've already learned from that first SAP. Nasa second SAP na tayo, hindi mo na puweeng gamitin [excuse] na magulo, si mayor pa rin, it's really execution," Gatchalian said.

The lawmaker said the distribution should have been automated so that the emergency aid could have be transferred through e-wallets.

"Kumuha sila ng magaling na IT expert, i-automate natin ito. Kaya 'yan. Planning and execution is the most important here and they are not doing it efficiently and they are not doing it well," he said.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the poorest households in the country—the most susceptible to the economic backlash of the pandemic—must receive P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistance for two months.

The second tranche was initially scheduled to be released in May but DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said validation efforts caused the delay.

Earlier this month, the DSWD and the Land Bank of the Philippines tapped six financial service providers to fast-track the release of the second tranche through a digital payment scheme.

However, as of July 15, the DSWD said it has released assistance to only 2.1 million or just  17% of the 12 million household beneficiaries for the second tranche.

Bautista said the DSWD aims to cover 80% by the end of  the month.

The Department of Budget and Management said it has already released P200.98 billion for the SAP. -MDM, GMA News