DSWD debunks Pacquiao’s accusations: No missing funds

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MANILA – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is prepared to appear before any investigating agency and submit the necessary proof, as well as any pertinent papers, to refute Senator Manny Pacquiao’s allegations that funds from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) have gone missing.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the DSWD stated that regular financial reports on the SAP, which has a budget of PHP199.975 billion under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, are presented to monitoring bodies and the Office of the President.

“In fact, the agency has attended several Congressional hearings relative to the SAP implementation and has presented all the necessary reports for transparency,” the DSWD statement read.

Pacquiao, who was challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte to name alleged corrupt government institutions, identified DSWD as one of those with anomalies in a media briefing on Saturday, only hours before leaving for his training in Los Angeles, California.

Pacquiao stated in his livestreamed statement on Saturday that it was troubling that Starpay, one of DSWD’s financial service providers (FSP), only had 500,000 downloads while SAP was distributed to 1.8 million beneficiaries.

“All funds provided to FSPs are accounted for and that there are no missing funds. All aid distributed is supported by liquidation reports that can be shared, if necessary. The agency ensures that the processes adopted by FSPs on payouts are in accordance with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas-approved processes and existing government accounting rules and procedures,” the DSWD said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government handled the first tranche of SAP, while the DSWD managed the latter via FSPs.

The FSPs are Robinsons Bank, Unionbank, RCBC, GCash, Paymaya, and Starpay, identified with the help of the BSP, which specializes in digitization as well as enabling policies and regulatory environments for financial inclusion and digital payments.

The presence of payout partners was prioritized by the BSP to ensure beneficiaries’ ease and ability to cash out, but other variables such as the presence of business model institutions, past experience with commercial rollout, and the type of cashout points were also taken into account.

The DSWD discontinued the FSPs’ services to conduct manual payouts for the undelivered second tranche recipients in April 2021.

“The FSPs, including Starpay, liquidated the budget that they received and refunded the amount for the unserved beneficiaries to the DSWD,” the DSWD said.

Over 17 million low-income families have now received their first tranche of SAP, amounting over PHP98 billion.

As of July 2, 2021, 14.88 million people had received cash assistance from the second tranche, amounting PHP89.8 billion.

Some payout operations are still in progress and will be finished by the end of the month.

“We have not received any invitation for hearings on the alleged missing fund in SAP or if there will be an investigation. Nevertheless, the DSWD welcomes any investigation to check the transparency of the SAP service,” DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao stated.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a radio broadcast on Friday that he told his famous colleague “to land a knockout against corruption, make sure all your exposes are backed by solid evidence”.

“Our advice to him was to make sure the evidence he has is substantial because if only one item in his exposé turns out to be lacking or baseless, that is what the public will remember,” Lacson added, pertaining to his and Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s discussion with Pacquiao the day before.

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