Press Release
April 19, 2021

Hontiveros urges DSWD, DILG: Fix problems affecting safe, speedy release of 'ayuda'

Senator Risa Hontiveros today urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to address reported problems surrounding the latest release of cash aid to struggling Filipinos, such as erroneous lists and crowded distribution venues.

"Maliit na nga ang ayuda na ibinibigay sa ating mga kababayan, sana naman ay huwag na yan patagalin pa o ibulsa. The DSWD and DILG should look closely into all reports of problems involving the distribution of financial assistance, which is a matter of life and death for many Filipinos during this crisis," Hontiveros said.

The DILG recently revealed that only around P4.47 billion or 40 percent of allocated funds for cash aid or ayuda has been so far distributed in the National Capital Region (NCR) by local government units. On top of this, Hontiveros noted the growing number of incidents - both reported in news and social media - stemming mainly from errors in government's list of beneficiaries for the cash distribution program.

"Mayroong mga reports na may listahan ng beneficiaries na may pangalan ng patay na tao o menor de edad, na di dapat qualified sa ayuda. Mayroong mga beneficiaries ng kasalukuyang Pantawid Program (4Ps) na nawala ang pangalan sa listahan para sa ayuda. Mayroon ding mga report ng mga beneficiary na hindi sinama sa listahan dahil hindi sila botante sa lugar. These stories are way too many to be mere fabrications and should be fully investigated," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros added that due to erroneous list of beneficiaries and other issues, aid distribution venues in several areas have become regularly crowded with applicants, thus creating potential "super-spreaders" for COVID-19: "Nakakabahala iyan, dahil kasama sa mga pumipila at nakikipagsiksikan para sa ayuda ay maraming senior citizen na mas vulnerable sa COVID-19 at iba pang sakit."

"Nakakalungkot na 2021 na pero hindi pa rin maayos ang proseso ng pagbibigay ng ayuda. Ang haba-haba ng pinipila ng mga kababayan natin para lang kumuha ng ayuda, pero pagdating nila sa distribution venue, madami ang wala sa listahan at walang mauuwi sa kanilang pamilya. There has been an entire year to fix the database of cash aid recipients and devise a better aid distribution, but it seems not much progress has been made," Hontiveros said.

The senator then urged the DSWD and DILG to create a unified and comprehensive database of cash aid recipients from the various existing lists of aid beneficiaries held by the DSWD and local government units. To do this, Hontiveros said the DSWD must complete its 'poverty survey' to determine the true number and identities of poor Filipinos who need financial assistance during the pandemic.

In the meantime, the DSWD and DILG should remove errors in government's list of aid beneficiaries, including removing dead, fictitious or unqualified persons, Hontiveros said. She also said that government officials or employees involved in acts of corruption or fraud using these assistance funds should be immediately investigated and prosecuted.

To avoid the spread of COVID-19 in aid distribution venues, Hontiveros then reminded local officials to see to it that health protocols, such as physical distancing and wearing of masks, are followed by everyone. She also recommended using large facilities with open ventilation such as public gyms for such large activities.

"The government should act with a sense of urgency and due diligence. Buhay ng Pilipino ang nakataya dito. Kung makupad ang pamahalaan sa pagbigay ng ayuda, baka hindi sa virus mamatay na ang mga kababayan kundi sa gutom," Hontiveros concluded.

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