Data gap snarls distribution of social amelioration fund

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MANILA—The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) confirms lack and unreliable names of recipients in the barangays as among the few bottlenecks in the initial implementation of the government’s social amelioration program funded by virtue the Bayanihan Law.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Joselito D. Bautista during the late night live cabinet meeting Thursday with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang Palace disclosed the department had dispatched the delivery of some Php 100 billion to the field within three to four days.  The said fund was part of the overall Php275 billion budget authorized by congress to the executive department to leverage government’s fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country.

“We were able to provide assistance to 4Ps beneficiaries and displaced marginal drivers in the transportation sector because DSWD has a complete list of them in our database”, he said.  He confided that the department had some problems of getting reliable data from the barangay to ensure that there would be no duplication and the rightful beneficiaries of the amelioration program could get their share as mandated by law. “We relied on the data from the barangay in the distribution of the money because we thought the barangay knew their constituents well,” he continued.  According to the law, the money will go only to eligible households and those who have already received assistance from other agencies like the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry will be excluded.

In the past days DSWD and Malacanang had been swarmed with questions and complaints about the use and distribution of funds from the amelioration program.  President Duterte himself during the said cabinet meeting chided a congressman for openly questioning where did the so-called Php300 billion amelioration fund go?  “Anong Php 300 billion na pinagsasabi mo? Nasa hangin pa iyan at hahanapin pa dahil wala yan sa 2019 budget,” said the undeniably irked president.

Sec. Bautista promised the department will find ways to improve their system of distribution since this is the first time the DSWD handles such a big task and money against Covid-19. Overall assessment of the cabinet as regards government’s response to Covid-19 in the Philippines is promising compared with other counties in the world.

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