By Hannah Torregoza
Sen. Leila de Lima has sought passage of a measure that would impose stricter rules and regulations in the accreditation of groups engaged in social welfare and development services for marginalized and vulnerable sectors.
Senator Leila de Lima (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
In filing Senate Bill No. 2011, or An Act Strengthening the Regulation of Social Welfare and Development Agencies, de Lima said there ought to be a set of standards and mechanism for registering, licensing, accrediting and monitoring individuals, agencies and organizations engaged in welfare and development projects or services to prevent abuses and scams victimizing hapless individuals.
“Our recent history has shown that even these institutions, which are supposed to be operating to perform humanitarian functions, can be used to commit crimes that seek to use the resources meant for the beneficiaries for personal gains,” de Lima said.
“In order to prevent similar situations from happening, we must clearly establish a process that can help donors to verify the legitimacy of the NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) as well as provide them with recourse against fake NGOs,” she stressed.
She pointed out that the Commission on Audit (COA), in 2013, discovered massive irregularities in the use of congressional development funds involving 12 senators and 180 congressmen funneled through fake NGOs.
At least P6.156-billion were released to questionable NGOs for 2007 to 2009 with a total of 82 NGOs found to have questionable backgrounds and operations, and eventually misused or failed to account for the funds.
It was during her term as justice secretary that the government slapped criminal charges against those involved in what is now popularly referred to as the “pork barrel fund scam” masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Aside from Napoles, among those who were jailed due to their involvement in the fund scam were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla. Enrile and Estrada, however, have been granted bail.
De Lima said it is imperative to offer protection to beneficiaries against the malpractice, abuse and even exploitation by private individuals, agencies and organizations engaged in providing social welfare and development services.
“With the goal to increase efficiency of various social welfare programs to assist the marginalized and vulnerable sector, greater coordination of NGOs with the government is essential,” she said.
The bill requires social welfare and development service providers—also known as social welfare and development agencies (SWDAs)—to secure their registration and license from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
All registered and licensed SWDAs are also required to obtain their accreditation from DSWD to enjoy the benefits and privileges, including endorsement for cash incentives or tax exemption, and for 50-percent discount to electricity, water and telephone services, among many others.
The measure also covers individuals; public and private groups, private foundations, associations and organizations engaged in or want to engage in social welfare and development activities.
De Lima said SDWAs who fail to secure registration and license to operate issued by DSWD shall be meted with a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment ranging from one to three years.