Press Release
May 16, 2023

Transcript of Interpellation Senator Risa Hontiveros with DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian
Commission on Appointments

May 16, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): To enable the full implementation of the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Law, may we request the Secretary to make representations with the DBM Secretary, for the issuance of an addendum to the Local Budget Circular that will earmark financial resources commensurate to the number of beneficiaries assigned to the department.

Secretary Rex Gatchalian (SRG): We took the liberty after the initial meeting prior to that even we wrote the DBM about this, and they've already responded and we will gladly furnish the committee together with the office of the good senator the copy of the response wherein DBM answered in the affirmative, they said that yes they believe that this should be charged against local GAD funds but at the same time they've also made the promise in that letter that they will include in the next memo circular for local budgeting the provisions of the said act. Furthermore, they've already made representations with DILG about crafting the implementing rules and regulations so that we can operationalize the provisions of the expanded solo parents act.

SRH: Natutuwa ako na makarinig na naginitiate na si Sec. Rex ng partnership amongst not just two but three departments, department nila, DBM atska pati ang DSWD. So I noted though that the DBM's answer though in the affirmative, and thank you very much to Sec. Rex and through him Sec. Mina, I note though that these financial resources will be charged against the local GAD fund. Karamihan nga po ng mga solo parents ay mga kabaro namin, but there is also a minority that are solo dads. I hope the Secretary won't mind that I'll follow up with him in the coming months, yung optimal implementation nito on response sa tanong ko.

I look forward with keen interest on the reforms that Sec. Gatchalian will bring to the DSWD; for instance, the streamlining of processes in the availment of services, and the digitalization of the provision of financial assistance to 4Ps beneficiaries. Pwede po bang sabihin ng good secretary sa CA kahit mailkli lang tungkol sa efforts na ito?

SRG: Let me just bucket it into 2. Services directly given to individuals in crisis situations I won't segregate the 4Ps kasi the way I see it, everybody in crisis situation programs should be accorded the same streamlined efforts and digitalized efforts, and the other one is the less popular side of the department. Little do people know may regulatory side kami which is the accrediting of NGOs, civil society groups which are equally important or what we call as social welfare development agencies so in that side these SWAD as we call them, the DSWD cannot do it by themselves we need them whether you're a people's org, a NGO or foundation, we need to make sure that they get accredited fast and right now we saw na one there are multiple steps, you get registered then you get licensed, then you get accredited. Pero yung mga requirements nila halos pare-parehas lang but you have to keep on coming back to the department again and again and again. Also there seems to be a lack of transparency in trying to publish which type of requirements there are. So yung akala mo yung pagpunta mo doon, itong requirement pero Mr. Chairman, yun pala may iba pa na hihingiin. So off the get go, we want to do that, make it transparent, and also look at the forms kasi parang ang hahaba ng mga forms, paulit ulit yung tanong nila it can get very frustrating for development partners to get accredited. Forgive me if I keep on going back to my experience as local chief executive wala ho itong kinaiba when we are trying to do ease of doing business in Valenzuela or in LGUs, we have to do the regulatory side ng department as easy as that. Making sure as one, two, three you can get accredited. I keep on going back sa accreditation process or licensing process kasi these are the forced multipliers ng department, the development agencies. So we've already done the streamlining work, we're doing it, and hopefully we can finish it in the next 60 day. Trying to identify redundancies that we can remove so that, kasi the digitalizing side is the easier part, it's the streamlining that has to start first. Kung dinigitalize mo yan without streamlining the steps nakakafrustrate, mas nakakafrustrate pa. Online na nga siya pero ang dami pa ding steps. So that's in the regulatory side ng department, we've already started figuring out what requirements we can do away with, what requirements are redundant, and we're going to shorten the gestation period of getting registered, licensed, and accredited yung acceditation of programs. Now going back to the other side which is yung sa end users natin, one of the things we realized even nung mayor ako, is maraming mga kliente natin pumupunta sa departamento naffrustrate sila, kasi akala nila itong requirement, yun pala kulang ang dala nila, so alis sila balik sila, in this day and age of chatbots and coming up with AI to do that the prototype of the chatbot of DSWD is already in the works, we should be able to launch it in the next hopefully 45 days, we're just fixing the graphics and the content people have smartphones and they know how to use technology. So mas madali siguro if we now do chatbots to explain the requirements para pagpunta nila doon hindi naman kulang yung dala na nila and it won't be as frustrating. I have to give credit one step backwards where credit is due, my predecessor Sec Tulfo already streamlined the process of getting assistance, inalis nila yung ibang requirements like the Barangay certification, inalis niya na yan, so he already did the first part so we have to do the second part. So chatbots to make sure na transparent tayo sa requirements, two we are already working, one of the portfolio that I inherited was a loan program from the World Bank called BEEFERS, is a digitalizing program that enables service delivery so we are now working with them in coming up with a portal where our clients can start uploading their requirements lalong lalo na sa GLs, wherein papadala namin sa end user and pagpunta nila doon sa hospital, nandun na yung GL naghihintay sa kanila, it's seamless, they transact through our portal we send it to the hospitals, that's one thing we are working with, the prototype also together with World Bank and the Indian developers that WB introduced to us is already in the works and we are looking at 60-90 day horizon for the prototype for the guarantee letters, but more importantly we're working with COA sa assistance na cash-based because malaki yung role ng COA because of the authentication process. Even if we try to digitalize things pero yung procedures o yung audit requirements on this person X is actually getting that amount, we'll also have to evolve with it. I took the liberty of going to see the good chairman of COA, and he's very receptive in coming up with a taskforce so we can evolve the authentication procedures that way later on hopefully the vision is people transact in the portal and hten we pay digitally, but again that's a harder lift cause because of the authentication requirements. But to throw it in the mix, the president has although instructed us that we optimize the use of PHILSYS kasi with the investment in PHILSYS which is also a WB program may biometrics na yun eh. I know there are kinks in the roll out of PHILSYS, but still meron na siyang base and we can use that as part of the authentication so it's working with PSA COA and DSWD in the actual authentication so that we can do the cash disbursement digitally but on the immediate side we are looking at the GL kasi mas mabilis po yun it's a matter of them transacting in the portal, us sending it to the hospitals and then they go to the hospitals with by passing DSWD already, that's in the works already. The ultimate goal I always say is, people will always think that DSWD will be the last to digitalize, but we want to be the first to digitalize because our end-user profile, we are spread across 7,100 islands and people all have smartphones. Yes there are GIDA areas but yes they will always find a way to use their smartphones and hopefully we can harness that in the next coming months.

SRH: Maraming salamat sa substantive update on those efforts. Siguro one word of caution lang, pero natutunan ko po Mr. Sec, doon sa padinig sa Senate Committee on Women on our bill on maternity benefit for women in the informal economy, meron pa lang nagffall through the cracks even with our first past historic law of EML, at ngayon humingi na ng tulong lalo na yung mga women in the informal economy na kapag maging batas na harinawa na yung maternity benefit for women in the informal economy, at iooptimize immaxmize yung paggamit ng digitalization, as the good secretary has already started in the DSWD, just for us daw to make sure both in the legislature lalo na sa executive that none of them fall through the cracks, kasi gaya ng nabanggit ng Secretary, meron talaga mga GIDA area na maaaring wala pa silang connectivity or para wala silang those smartphones or sufficient funds for load so yun lang po just a word of caution to aid the secretary in fully digitalizing the extension of servies to the department's constituents .

Nabanggit niyo po Sec, yung accreditation of NGOs I recall nung unang taon ng pandemic, nagkaroon ng ilang concerns yung mga NGOs na gusto magpartner sa DSWD at sa ibang government agencies sa ayuda at iba pang social protections sa ating mga kababayan especially during hte pandemic. I'll just check back with them kung kumusta na and forward any feedback concerns or recommendations to the good secretary para magamit nila moving forward on this aspect of regulation on the part of the DSWD.

The DSWD is mandated to implement reintegration and rehabilitation programs for trafficked persons (RRPTP), under RA No. 9208 as amended. The Senate committee on women is helping in the rescue and investigation of trafficking victims in scam hubs in Southeast Asia. Pero malungkot, yung ilang sa mga rescuees na ito nagrereport ng difficulties in accessing assistance, and this this issue of human trafficking to scam hubs is evolving into a humanitarian crisis -- ano po yung ginagawa ng DSWD para iimprove ang inyong RRPRP interventions?

SRG: Just recently we revised our guidelines on assistance in crisis situations. We singled out people who are victims of human trafficking should be part of this program it's a subset already na kinikilala ng departamento. We will gladly furnish the committee and its members so that you can see the effort of the department in trying to make sure that yung mga victims natin ng human trafficking ay maka-access ng RRPRP assistance so they can reintegrate back. It's actually being mainstreamed in the department now, meaning it shouldnt be a special program but it's a mainstay like the good senator said, talagang ang human trafficking ang flourishing endeavour in the darker world and they are trying to take advantage of it so kami in the department we have to make sure that the victims that are brought back to us are reintegrated properly, it's a mainstay in the department, but it's a subset also in our assistance to individuals in crisis situations.

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