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Palace to protect whistleblowers in SAP anomalies

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Malacañang Palace said it will protect individuals who tip on local officials committing irregularities in the distribution of cash assistance intended for poor families affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.

The promise was made a day after President Rodrigo Duterte offered a cash reward of PHP30,000 to each individual who can name public officials proven to be pocketing the emergency relief from the national government that should have been given to rightful beneficiaries.

In a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured that the government would protect those who could give information on corrupt public officials involved in the anomalous distribution of cash aid.

Roque said the government would provide “careful attention” to the identities of individuals who are ready to spill the beans on the unlawful distribution of emergency subsidies under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

“Huwag po kayong mag-alala (Do not worry) about your identity. As much as possible, we will protect your identity,” he said.

Duterte, in a televised public address aired late Monday night, took a jab at Danilo Flores, a village councilor of Hagonoy, Bulacan, for allegedly pocketing almost half of the PHP6,000 cash aid for each poor household in the latter’s turf.

Roque said individuals with sufficient evidence against corrupt public officials might be placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program.

“If need be, kung talagang kakasuhan ang tao, makakapasok kayo sa Witness Protection Program ng gobyerno (If need be, you will be placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program, if the erring government officials need to face charges),” he said.

Roque said criminal complaints against corrupt local officials could be lodged before the office of either the Philippine National Police or the National Bureau of Investigation, while administrative complaints could be issued before the regional office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

He said the public could also report the erring public officials through the 8888 citizens’ complaint hotline.

Roque, however, reminded everyone that the allegations against the supposedly erring government officials should have sufficient grounds.

“Ang pabuya po ay doon sa mapapatunayang tama ang pagpaparatang. Hindi lang po magpaparatang. Kinakailangang patunayan (The reward will only be given to an individual whose allegation against a public official is true. It should not be a mere allegation. You need to present evidence),” he said.

The PHP200-billion SAP mandates local government units (LGUs) to distribute the cash aid to poor families within their localities to help them cope with the Covid-19 crisis.

The government initially sought to give emergency subsidies ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 to some 18 million low-income households.

However, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has agreed to heed the President’s plan to grant cash assistance to additional five million families, bringing the total number of SAP beneficiaries to 23 million.

The LGUs in Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Cebu City, and Davao City have until April 7 to finish the distribution of financial aid to poor households.

Roque assured that the government would not allow another delay in the release of the second tranche of emergency subsidies.

The government, he said, would distribute the second tranche of cash aid “at the soonest time possible.“

“We promise you, we have learned from the earlier experience of distributing the first tranche and we will definitely be more efficient in distributing the second tranche,” Roque said.


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