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Rough Cuts | SAP: This complaint deserves looking into

It’s really unfortunate that even at this time of a major health crisis that is sweeping the entire country there are still people whose minds are preoccupied in thinking of ways to take advantage of their fellow Filipinos.

Yes, with so many of us belonging to the so-called disadvantaged sector of the population, the con men remain in our midst and ready to take away a large portion of the money allocated by the government to help the poorest of the poor. And these corrupt members of society more specifically some government officials including those in the lowest unit of the bureaucracy – the barangay – are taking their “trip” on the distribution of the cash assistance to those badly affected by the CoViD 19 health pandemic. The government’s financial support is undertaken through the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as the lead implementing agency.

Already, there are a number of barangay officials who are facing investigation by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for their (barangay officials) alleged adoption of “innovative” schemes to get cuts from the SAP funds.

Who has not heard of reports on the lack – or total absence – of transparency in the distribution process of the SAP financial assistance? Imagine the Philippines appearing as if it has barangay officials almost totally violating the mandate from the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) to post in conspicuous places the list of beneficiaries of the government manna!

Had the barangay officials complied with such DILG directive local residents would have been informed ahead if they were qualified or undeserving of the financial support from the national government

By having posted the list local residents would have known if indeed they are listed and are authorized to get a share of the assistance. But no, there were no such postings in villages we had visited owing to a privilege given us to move around as a media practitioner in Davao City.

From the looks of it, the non-posting of the list of SAP beneficiaries in the barangays, the issue of transparency has been neglected.

We have heard quite loudly about this lack of transparency among officials of some barangays in Davao City’s third congressional district. In one barangay in Tugbok area the SAP financial assistance was only given last Friday, the very last day of the extended deadline for the cash assistance turn-over.

In that particular Tugbok district barangay several individuals, a number of them luckless employees of a multinational banana growing and exporting company, were included in an earlier list of qualified SAP beneficiaries. The day before the scheduled cash distribution they discovered that their names were not anymore in the new list in the possession of the barangay executives.

When they sought an explanation about the disappearance of their names in the new and final list, the luckless expecting beneficiaries were told that they were not qualified because last April of this year they received separation pay from their employer agricultural firm that stopped operation starting the first day of the same month.

The “delisted” expectant beneficiaries reasoned out that whatever little remaining amount from their separation pay after the company deducted the balances of their accounts from the office could not last long especially at this time of a global health pandemic. Moreover, they told the barangay officials that they had been employed with the company not for long. Thus, their separation pay is not big. Besides, they pleaded, starting last April they became jobless and may be unable to find work after the CoViD 19 pandemic devastated the Philippine economy.

After haggling for the restoration of their names in the list, according to some of the unlucky would-be beneficiaries, the officials of that particular Tugbok district barangay became even more immobile of their decision.

Sensing the futility of their plea, they claimed, they had to vow their heads in total surrender to their fate. But they manifested to the village executives their desire to get back their SAP form that they already signed. They were not comfortable with the possibility that their pre-signed SAP document could be used for greedy schemes of some, if not all of the officials of the said barangay and their “collaborators” somewhere. Yes, they said their filled-out and signed SAP forms could be included as supporting documents in the liquidation of the cash assistance. Their request was flatly denied right there and then.

We were later told that a concerned barangay resident went to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the DILG offices in Davao City to seek clarification on the guidelines that serve as basis of the deletion of the names of the new jobless farm workers. And the concerned barangay resident was told that the earlier listed persons were qualified under the existing guidelines.

Moreover, according to the two agencies concerned, they (the complaining would-be beneficiaries) were already earlier given and have filled out SAP forms with tracker numbers. And they were also included in an earlier list of beneficiaries that was revised minus their names a day before the schedule of the cash distribution.

We wonder if time is wasted by our good friend Regional Director Alex Roldan of the DILG XI, and the DSWD regional chief if they take a serious look into this claim.

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