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Gov’t warns against ‘ghost beneficiaries’

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The government is relying on a comprehensive database to weed out "ghost beneficiaries" and ensure a "swift and manageable" distribution of pandemic cash assistance to residents affected by the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista said Wednesday both national and local governments have provided a database of beneficiaries that would expedite the distribution of the cash aid to families affected by the hard lockdowns in parts of the "National Capital Region (NCR) Plus" bubble.

"After the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program and the Bayanihan 2, we have seen the faces of those beneficiaries who are qualified to get the financial assistance during ECQ," Bautista said in Filipino in an interview during the rollout of the government's aid in Parañaque City.

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The local government units (LGUs), he said, may request the DSWD for an extension if they have not completed the payout within the given period.

"Kung talagang may weight at talagang reasonable naman ang justification nila (If the request has weight and if they have a reasonable justification), then why not?" Bautista said.

He said the joint monitoring committee of the cash assistance program would assess the validity of the request for extension.

"We also have (the) means to validate if the reasons are valid but if there are justifiable reasons, then we might consider," he added.

Bautista, however, urged the LGUs to implement the financial payout within the given time.

"We have computed the days because that's an immediate (need) and that should be given expeditiously so that's our request to the LGUs – as much as possible, hasten the distribution of assistance," he said.

He said the DSWD has left the distribution of the cash aid to the discretion of the LGUs. 

"We have to refer and consult our LGUs," Bautista said, adding that the DSWD is relying on local government processes in terms of distributing the financial aid.

Ghost beneficiaries 

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) spokesperson, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, warned the LGUs about the inclusion of "ghost names" or unqualified individuals in the list of the beneficiaries.

Malaya said violators could face either administrative or criminal charges before the City Hall of Justice or at the Ombudsman.

"Uulitin lang po natin 'yung ginawa natin last year at babantayan lang po natin ang pera ng bayan (We will just repeat what we did last year and we will just keep an eye on the people's money)," he said.

On March 31, the DSWD, DILG, and Department of National Defense issued Joint Memorandum Circular 1 that provides guidelines on the distribution of financial assistance after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the release of PHP22.9 billion to those affected by the ECQ.

The LGUs were directed to release the cash assistance to their constituents within 15 days upon receipt of the funds.

In-kind assistance should be given within 30 days.


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