By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is exhausting all means to ensure that the indigent senior citizens and beneficiaries of Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) will receive their pension and cash grants in the next few days.
DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista appealed to the affected program beneficiaries to allow first the agency to come up with a protocol “in a matter of two days” to ensure their safety and that of the social workers assisting them during the payouts.
“Pakiusap po i-delay muna natin. Siguro in a matter of two days makakagawa kami ng protocol na agreeable sa LGUs and at the same time, doable sa part nating DSWD (We appeal that these payouts be delayed. Maybe, in a matter of two days, we can come up with a protocol which is agreeable to the LGUs, and the same time, doable on the part of the DSWD),” he said in a radio interview.
He assured the beneficiaries that they will closely coordinate with the local government units (LGUs) to ensure that the cash assistance will be given to them.
“Makikipag-coordinate po kami sa LGUs, i-schedule po. Dadalhin natin ang pagbibigay ng ayuda, ‘yung cash assistance dun sa lugar na malapit ang beneficiary (We will coordinate with the LGUs, we will schedule it. We will bring the cash assistance to the places near the beneficiary),” Bautista said.
He said the temporary suspension of the payouts of Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens and UCT is in compliance with the government’s imposition of enhanced community quarantine.
He explained that before the community quarantine was imposed, beneficiaries go the DSWD-Central Office and its Field Offices to get such assistance.
“Kelangan mag-comply sa enhanced community quarantine and at the same time, maka-establish tayo ng protocol in a way na hindi mainfect ang beneficiary at ating social worker (We need to comply with enhanced community quarantine, and at the same time, we can establish a protocol in a way that the beneficiary and our social worker will not be infected),” Bautista said.
On Monday, March 16, the DSWD said it is temporarily suspending “some activities of its programs and services” that require meeting or gathering of beneficiaries and other stakeholders until April 14. The advisory was signed by Bautista on March 14, 2020.
These include “the payouts of Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens and Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT); Listahanan enumeration; and activities of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) particularly the administration of Social Welfare and Development Indicator (SWDI).”
The “over-the-counter pay-outs and distribution of cash cards; activities in Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, Offsite Serbisyo, Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA), Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP), Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), and Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS); and service delivery assessments” were also postponed.
The DSWD did its part in issuing its own guidelines to comply with President Duterte’s directive that all mass gatherings shall be suspended.
The Department Advisory Number 1 titled, “Guidelines for the Prevention, Control, and Mitigation of the Spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in the DSWD Offices, Attached and Supervised Agencies” was issued following President Duterte’s directive to further control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Bautista had earlier assured the public that “social amelioration will not stop” amid the outbreak of COVID-19.
“It is during these trying times that the Department shows its compassionate care to the poor, vulnerable and marginalized,” he said, while recognizing, “that health is more valuable than anything else.”
The DSWD said individuals who are in need of urgent medical and burial assistance will be assisted through agency’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS).
It said a total of 30 beneficiaries daily will be accepted for processing at the Social Welfare and Development (SWAD) Team Offices in the different provinces nationwide. While 50 beneficiaries daily will be processed at various DSWD Field Offices.
“The DSWD Central Office will also accept and process the request for assistance of 100 beneficiaries daily. A guarantee letter will be given to the beneficiaries,” it said.
So as not to further compromise the health and well-being of the elderly family members, younger and healthier members of the family have been advised by the DSWD to apply and bring the necessary requirements.
The DSWD said fire victims will also be given financial assistance or guarantee letters under the AICS which will be given out in evacuation centers.
The Department advisory also noted that distribution of food and non-food items will continue.
“The DSWD will coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for the hauling, and with the local government units (LGUs) for distribution to the residents. As frontline in service delivery, LGUs provide initial assistance to their constituents. The DSWD, in turn, augments the resources of the LGUs,” it said.
“DSWD Centers and Residential Care Facilities (CRCFs) nationwide will also continue its operations, but visits from family members and other guests will be regulated, and proper social distancing will be implemented,” it added.
The DSWD also assured distressed overseas Filipinos (OFs) that social protection services will be extended to them.
“All Social Welfare Attaches will remain in their diplomatic posts in their assigned countries for continuity of DSWD assistance,” it said.
Bautista said the labor and workplace concerns of the DSWD employees are being addressed “as we refuse to compromise the safety of our personnel given the risks of COVID-19.”
“Government is now making arrangements so that workers affected by the community quarantine period will be remunerated, following existing regulations,” he said.
He also appealed to the public “to remain calm and to fully cooperate” with the government, even as he committed the continued delivery of immediate social services from the DSWD.