By Martin Sadongdong
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed on May 20, Wednesday, that it will provide security assistance to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the distribution of the second tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP).
Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the military has coordinated with the DSWD led by Secretary Rolando Bautista, a retired lieutenant general and former Philippine Army chief himself, to provide the necessary help in the priority distribution of cash aid in “problematic” areas.
The problematic areas, according to Arevalo, include areas where there are reported anomalies in cash aid distribution, geographically-isolated barangays in far-flung and island municipalities, and locations with monitored presence of terrorist, communist, and other threat groups.
Arevalo expressed confidence that the military will be able to do its part in securing the new mission since they have already done a similar task in the past, specifically during the previous elections. “We will employ in this task our experience in distributing election paraphernalia during local polls,” Arevalo said.
The military official admitted the new task “may affect their security operations” in terms of troop deployment. However, he was quick to say that it “is not enough” to hamper the “successes” and gains they have achieved in their operations.
Since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was declared, the military has been helping the national government in containing the deadly disease. Military assets were used to fetch medical supplies, equipment, and health personnel in and out of the country. AFP personnel were also helping the police in manning quarantine checkpoints while facilities and assets were turned into temporary quarantine centers to attend to COVID-19 patients.
In President Duterte’s public address on Tuesday night, Bautista revealed that the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will help them in the distribution of the second tranche of the SAP. This, Bautista said, was based on the orders of Duterte himself.
“Hindi na tayo magbababa ng pondo sa mga LGU [local government units] at gagamitin natin ang AFP at PNP sa pamamahagi ng ayuda (We will no longer give the funds to the LGU, instead, we will use the AFP and PNP in the distribution of the cash aid),” Bautista said.
Anomalies were aplenty in the distribution of cash aid for families affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed over Luzon due to COVID-19. Duterte, in a public address, even berated a barangay kagawad in Hagonoy, Bulacan who allegedly demanded half of the cash assistance being distributed to his constituents.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said at least 183 barangay executives were being investigated over SAP anomalies. The first tranche of the SAP distribution was already 97 percent complete, according to Bautista, although it was long past overdue. The deadline imposed by the government was on May 10.
The DILG has given LGUs until May 21 to submit a list of “left out” households which did not receive the first wave of cash subsidy so they can be included in the second wave of financial aid.
Aside from that, there were numerous reports about the harassment of New People’s Army insurgents to security troops and village officials who were delivering relief assistance to communities.