Press Release
September 20, 2023

Interpellation of Senator Risa Hontiveros with DSWD Secretary Rex Gathalian on ayuda allegedly being used by Socorro cult
September 20, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): Since nabanggit ko nga po, Secretary, and I wish to reiterate: I thank the department doon sa maagang action ng Municipal Social Welfare Development officer ng Socorro, Surigao del Norte. And then kahapon lang salamat na nakipag-ugnayan ang isang taga-DSWD sa legis ko para moving forward, paano talaga, well, mailigtas yung mga batang tumakas doon sa kulto doon sa Mount Kapihan.

Nasusubaybayan po ba, Madame Chair, ng department yung mga tao sa Socorro? Kasi lumabas po doon sa mga testimony, kinukuha daw ang halos o higit sa kalahati ng ayuda nila noong binanggit po yung 4Ps, binanggit po yung disaster ayuda, binanggit pati yung AICS. So kung totoo yun, practically gobyerno ang nagpopondo sa kulto.

So nasusubaybayan po ba ito and may initial thoughts ba ang department paano ito pipigilin at iko-correct moving forward?

Sec. Gatchalian: Madame Chair, as a matter of practice, what is for the beneficiary is for the beneficiary. It's against the creed of the department when may tumabas, no matter kung sino man yan. No government official, no private individual can take what is given directly to the beneficiary.

We have taken stock of the privilege speech of the good senator, Madame Chair, and we took inventory immediately of how many 4Ps households we have there. But obviously, these are initial numbers kasi it could not be in just one sitio but in more sitios. In Sitio Kapihan, for example, we have 74 households na 4Ps beneficiaries. In that barangay itself, Barangay Siring, we have 503 households.

What we will do immediately and the undersecretary for 4Ps is beside me, she's a registered social worker and one of our senior social workers. We've already spoken about getting our city links and our municipal links to pry into the well-being of these 4Ps beneficiaries in that area.

Likewise, the undersecretary of operations is beside me, Undersecretary Pinky. Whenever we get allegations of AICS misuse, we take it seriously. And even here in the central office, in any of our field offices. She has already directed the regional director to look into the AICS track distribution in that area. We will look into the beneficiaries of AICS in that region, particularly zeroing in on those barangays, sitios that are in the peripheral of the site. And then we can do backtracking and our standard investigation tracks also.

Again, we will immediately copy furnish the office of the committee as well as the office of the good senator on the findings of the 4Ps as well as the AICS clusters.

SRH: Maraming salamat para doon, good secretary, Madame Chair. It's really good to know na both in terms of the welfare of the children victim-survivors at yung sabi niyo nga welfare of the beneficiaries of government social protection programs, sinimulan na ng department alamin yun. And I fully expect will take corrective action kung mayroon talagang mapatunayang misuse of these programs and these funds.

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