By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) leadership wants those involved in anomalies in the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) benefits within its jurisdiction investigation and thrown behind bars.
Various social media pages and even traditional media networks have been reporting alleged irregularities in the distribution of SAP benefits in the barangay level, ranging from purported political patronage to shortchanging or “cutting ‘in amounts intended for people affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to BARMM Spokesman Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo.
Sinarimbo, concurrent BARMM Minister of Interior and Local Government, said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Criminal and Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) would be the “more appropriate” agencies which could look into these allegations because elected officials are said to be involved.
He cited field reports as saying that some local officials were colluding with social welfare workers in “cutting” SAP benefits being distributed down the line, even as there were many residents, who have complained about being excluded from the list of SAP recipients.
“These disturbing issues can be addressed better by NBI and CIDG operatives…One or more suspects cuffed, sued and place behind bars will be very essential in exemplifying the commitment of the BARMM transitional leadership for moral governance,” Sinarimbo told The Manila Bulletin in an interview by phone Monday night.
In separate phone interview Monday night, NBI-BARMM Director Arnold Rosales said his office will swiftly investigate the alleged anomalies upon receipt of an official request from the Bangsamoro government containing the basic data on affected barangays in the region.
“We will act on it (detailed request) promptly as we deem it a mandate to help insure that all government emergency aids distributed fairly and faithfully to whichever is due,” Director Rosales told the Bulletin.
Rosales admitted that his office has already investigated a number of people involved in the distribution of SAP funds in some barangays of Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS) town, Maguindanao, and some of the 37 villages in this city.
He said NBI agents have yet to complete their probe in DOS, while complaints in this city were considered resolved as complainants reported having “received their shares, though delayed.”
The BARMM Ministry of Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) has expressed intention to complete the dispersal of SAP funds ranging between P5,000 and P8,000 per beneficiary across the autonomous region by May 15, said the Bureau of Pubic Information (BPI) in a recent statement.
BARMM covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan, 117 municipalities and 2,590 barangays including 63 villages in six towns of North Cotabato.
It replaced the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), whose former social welfare officials had admitted that their rosters of beneficiaries in the conditional cash transfer program (more known as 4Ps) were not fully cleansed of “misfits” or “undeserving” people.