By Genalyn Kabiling
The national government may withhold the transfer of additional funds to local government units (LGUs) if they are unable to properly liquidate the first tranche of financial aid distributed to low-income families.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles warned local government officials against violating the guidelines on implementation of the two-month emergency subsidy program.
“Unless ma-liquidate ng LGUs ang lahat ng ipinamahagi niya using the social amelioration funds ay hindi na mauulit ang second round doon sa kanila (Unless the LGUs can liquidate the social amelioration funds they distributed, the(ir) second round (entitlement to benefits) will not be continued),” he said during a virtual press conference Monday.
Nograles said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will validate if local government units were able to distribute the cash subsidies to qualified beneficiaries. If the financial aid was given to ineligible beneficiaries, the local government units may have to pay it back and face possible charges from the national government.
“Kapag ineligible pinagbigyan ng social amelioration package, malalagot din ang LGU na namahagi because after mapahagi na ang social amelioration, DSWD will conduct validation. During the validation, titingnan niya ang eligibility pati kung nag-duplicate ba (If they gave the social amelioration package to ineligible beneficiaries, the LGU will be held accountable. The DSWD will conduct a validation after the distribution of the social amelioration package. During the validation, they will check the eligibility (of recipients), if there are duplicates),” he said.
“In cases of ineligibility, i-inform ng DSWD ang LGUs within 72 hours. And the LGU official will have to refund yung amount na binigay niya ineligible o non-eligible na beneficiary (In cases of ineligibility, the DSWD will inform the LGUs within 72 hours and the LGU official will have to refund the amount he gave to the ineligible or non-eligible beneficiary),” he said.
The concerned local government may also face criminal, civil or administrative liability for any fraud and other discrepancy in the financial aid distribution. “That (refund) does not preclude government from filing any criminal, civil or administrative cases against the LGU official,” Nograles.
In case of complaints against the social amelioration fund, the DSWD has instituted a “grievance redress mechanism” to address the concerns and complaints of the public regarding the government’s implementation of Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said the Department has stepped up its efforts to address the snowballing concerns about the P5,000 to P8,000 emergency subsidy program.
“Ang DSWD ang nangunguna sa implementation sa Social Amelioration Program ay naglagay o naginstitute ng grievance redress mechanism para po ating maaccommodate, masolusyunan, at matugunan ang reklamo ng ating mga kababayan hinggil sa implementasyon ng SAP (The DSWD that is leading implementation of the Social Amelioration Program has put in place or has instituted grievance redress mechanism to accommodate, solve and respond to the complaints of the public regarding the implementation of SAP),” she said during the “Laging Handa” briefing aired on state-run PTV-4 on Monday, April 13.
Dumlao advised those “eligible” but are not included in the DSWD’s indicative number of beneficiaries “can appeal” before their respective social welfare and development offices for inclusion in the subsidy program.
She said the social welfare and development offices will submit the list of other “eligible” beneficiaries to the Field Offices for validation.
Ineligible family faces blacklisting
He added that the family that received the aid despite being ineligible would be “blacklisted” or “disqualified” from the program.
The government had earlier launched a P200-billion emergency subsidy program for low-income families affected by the quarantine regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic. The DSWD is in charge of the implementation and may deputize local government officials to help with the distribution.
The subsidy program has been marred with complaints of delay due to the alleged discrepancies in the list of beneficiaries, logical challenges, among others. Nograles said the DSWD has committed to work with the local government units to facilitate the smooth implementation of the welfare program.
P507.8-M livelihood assistance
Nograles also revealed that the government has so far spent P507.8 million in livelihood assistance for informal sector workers displaced by quarantine regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The emergency employment program implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has benefited more than 120,000 displaced workers, Nograles said.
“The DOLE reports that it has already distributed funds under its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers to 124,608 individuals, the total of which amounts to P507.8 million,” he said during a virtual press conference Monday.
Nograles said the labor department has also distributed funds under its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) to 167,941 affected workers in quarantined areas.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) had earlier backed the labor department’s request for P5 billion to implement its social amelioration projects for affected workers.
Under the DOLE’s temporary job program, affected informal workers will be paid a daily minimum wage for 10 days to disinfect their houses and communities. The disinfection will be implemented in coordination with local health offices.
The CAMP project, on the other hand, offers one-time P5,000 financial support to employees of companies that adopted flexible work arrangements or temporary closure due to the coronaries pandemic.
Recently, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has urged big businesses to continue paying their employees who are unable to work during the extended quarantine period.
At least 1,048,649 workers in the formal sector have either affected by temporary closures or flexible work arrangements. The bulk of the displaced workers reportedly come from Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Davao region. (With a report from Charissa L. Atienza)