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DSWD still has P10 billion for social amelioration

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Senators asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to distribute the remaining P10 billion in financial assistance for the four million families affected by the coronavirus disease, according to a report by Philippine Star.

Lawmakers issued the call after it was revealed during a hearing on DSWD’s proposed budget on Tuesday that it still has in its possession some P10 billion for the social amelioration program (SAP).

The distribution of the financial aid is provided under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave President Duterte authority to realign funds to address the pandemic.

“We hope they can distribute the amounts left expeditiously and without the long lines that we witnessed in some cases. These were emergency funds after all, which were diverted from other government programs so as to react to the damage caused to families and individuals affected by COVID-19,” Sen. Sonny Angara said, referring to DSWD officials.

“The country’s prudent financial management in the past should give way to more spending now that people need it most,” he said.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the DSWD should not allow the four million SAP beneficiaries to be left behind, no matter what happens as the Bayanihan laws were designed to help the most vulnerable sectors of society.

“With unemployment projected to rise in the coming months, more families will go hungry and we need to do better in providing assistance,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said hundreds of thousands of mouths are still waiting to be fed just to survive, and the DSWD should “at least mind those poor souls.”

“I would have insisted that the DSWD utilize the P10 billion for distribution, instead of prematurely declaring the same as ‘savings’ after it scaled down the number of cash aid beneficiaries by four million households,” Lacson said.

He said he sent a letter to Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista more than a week ago on behalf of a listed beneficiary family that has been following up to receive their SAP subsidy, but to no avail.

“Not being arrogant or trying to throw my weight around, I have not even received a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response even from a clerk of DSWD,” Lacson said.

“If this is not failure of planning, preparation, coordination and implementation, I do not know how to describe it,” he said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros described the inaction of the DSWD as “unconscionable,” saying it is the obligation of the government to compensate people who sustained economic losses because of the regulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“It is unconscionable that you have the money, but kept it, instead of giving it to those in need,” Hontiveros said.

‘Prioritize the poor’

Sen. Bong Go reminded the DSWD to prioritize and ensure the delivery of government social services to the poor and vulnerable sector, as the country is striving to address the pandemic.

Go expressed support to a proposed budget and stressed the importance of DSWD and the work it does to deliver critical social services to Filipinos.

With a P171.221-billion proposed budget for the DSWD and its attached and supervised agencies for 2021, Go urged its leaders to ensure that every peso goes directly to the less fortunate, especially in these trying times.

Go, one of the vice-chairs of the Senate finance committee, joined a hearing of the Senate committee on finance that discussed the proposed budget of the DSWD and its supervised and attached agencies for fiscal year 2021.

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