By Ali G. Macabalang
Cotabato City – The new leadership of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DSWD-ARMM) has tapped the military as martial law enforcer to eradicate years-old anomalies in the implementation of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia, concurrent DWSD secretary, disclosed complaints reaching her office that barangay and town officials as well as teachers and social welfare workers have allegedly been pocketing large amounts of money intended for the region’s 415,389 households registered with 4Ps.
Alamia, who served as regional human rights lawyer before joining the ARMM bureaucracy, revealed that of the region’s total number of 4Ps beneficiaries, only about 40 percent are legitimate because the rest are either “ghosts” or unfit being affluent relatives of people involved in the anomalous selection of 4Ps members. The bogus beneficiaries constitute about 60 percent.
“There are even some barangays officials and teachers listed as 4Ps beneficiaries” as shown in initial findings of her office since the time she took over the DSWD regional leadership last month.
The ARMM’s total number of 4Ps-accredited households is broken down as follows: Maguindanao (160,972), Sulu (93,734), Lanao del Sur (93,051), Tawi-Tawi (36,139) and Basilan (31,439).
Sec. Alamia said that poor households were supposed to get P1,400 cash each from 4Ps but some unscrupulous government employees withdraw the money from their automated teller machine accounts and hand over to them just R500, pocketing the rest of the subsidy.
Alamia, alongside ARMM cabinet members Rasol Mitmug Jr. (education) and Kirby Matalam-Abdullah (interior and local government) presided over an assembly on social welfare protection among over 1,000 social welfare workers, teachers, principals, superintendents, barangay officials and municipal mayors from Maguindanao at the Army’s 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Datu Odin Sinsuat town on Wednesday.
“We will revalidate the list of 4Ps beneficiaries to weed out the unfit and replace them with legitimate households,” Alamia told the audience in Pilipino, saying the cleansing period may take a month or two.
In the cleansing process, she said, the ARMM government has asked the DSWD national office to suspend the release of 4Ps subsidies for ARMM until the list of beneficiaries shall have been sanitized.
“We are giving unscrupulous beneficiaries two months to surrender their 4Ps cards,” Alamia said. After the grace period, she said, the military as enforcer of the martial law in Mindanao will step in to arrest the erring parties or individuals. Arrested persons will be prosecuted to the full extent of law, she added.