By Chito Chavez and Aaron Recuenco
All parties, whether barangay officials or private individuals, involved in unscrupulous and deceitful cash distribution anomalies under the social amelioration program (SAP) will be charged accordingly, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Sunday (May 24).
In an exclusive interview, DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said unqualified SAP cash aid recipients are still liable for unlawfully receiving the financial assistance at the expense of the poorest of the poor. “Return of the aid will not extinguish their criminal liability,” Malaya said.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) has extensively acted on the numerous SAP-related complaints against rogue barangay officials.
In many of their probes and case build-ups, the undeserving financial grantees pointed to the barangay officials who included them in the first tranche roster.
Barangay personnel receiving the same compensation as the barangay kagawad (village councilors) even had the gall to insist that they deserve the cash aid since they are among the frontliners.
Other arrogant barangay officials who were subjected to the SAP complaints dismissed the grievances, saying they will go nowhere.
CIDG-NCR chief Col. Arnold Thomas Ibay said their legal team is carefully scrutinizing the complaints to determine which have basis and will hold ground.
He echoed Malaya’s sentiment, saying those who have more in life should give way to the underprivileged. By accepting aid that they do not deserve, Ibay said those who are really in need are deprived of the financial assistance.
In the first place, Ibay said affluent families should not have accepted the cash assistance and will certainly be answerable to the law for their inappropriate actions.
He lamented that there were unqualified beneficiaries who were alarmed by the CIDG probe and returned the cash aid merely as “an afterthought.”
“Dapat outright hindi na po nag-claim kahit listed (Outright, they should not have claimed the aid even if they were listed),” Ibay said.
Ibay urged the well-to-do and others who do not belong to the poorest among the poor to exercise their sense of patriotism and let the less fortunate receive the cash aid.
In the name of fair play and due process, Malaya said the concerned barangay officials will have their day in court to defend their actions.
As of Monday, the DILG said that 134 barangay officials are now facing criminal charges over SAP-related anomalies before the Prosecutor’s Office of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“More people are coming forward to file complaints against their barangay officials on alleged anomalies in the social amelioration program payout,” according to a DILG statement.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the barangay officials were the subject of the complaints for alleged offenses in the distribution of the first tranche of SAP cash aid in just “a matter of four days.”
On May 20, Año noted that only 42 barangay officials were charged by the CIDG but the number has increased dramatically.
A disgusted Año said the shameless ways of the barangay officials won’t pass unnoticed.
Año said it is beyond reason why those barangay officials could steal and deprive the poorest among the poor of the emergency cash assistance.
With the betrayal of public trust, Año said that they deserve to rot in jail.
Año noted that nine more similar cases are set to be filed in the next few days with the unwavering efforts of the CIDG.
CIDG director Maj. Gen. Joel Napoleon Coronel said the 405 barangay officials and private individuals, now categorized as probable suspects in SAP cash aid distribution anomalies, are now the subject of investigation.
“We are now handling 169 cases based on the complaints of 307 people. We continue to monitor and conduct investigation on all the other cases,” said Coronel.
Out of these the 169 cases, Coronel said 87 are still under investigation, while nine cases are readied for filing.
On the other hand, a total of 74 cases were already filed in courts, and one case was already sent to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for appropriate administrative action.
The cases filed were in connection with the Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) in relation to RA 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act).
Jonathan Malaya thanked the DOJ and the Prosecutor General for ordering all provincial and city prosecutors to prioritize the preliminary investigation of such cases.
In Boac, Marinduque, a barangay chairman, two barangay kagawad, and an SK chairperson have been charged because of their alleged illegal collection of ₱50 processing fee from each SAP beneficiary.
A similar incident was reported in Binmaley, Pangasinan, where the barangay chairman and his cohort reportedly collected ₱1,000 from a complainant after receiving his SAP assistance.
In Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, Malaya said the residents complained that a barangay chairman had deducted ₱2,000 from 132 SAP recipients.
In another barangay in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, in Talisay City, and in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, Malaya said there are barangay officials that are the subject of complaints after allegedly “acting with deceit, dishonesty and false information by including the names of their relatives in the list of SAP beneficiaries although they were not qualified leaving out the poorest of the poor in the barangay who had no means of income.”
Malaya said “politics was sometimes at play in the giving out of SAP in some barangays, particularly in Eastern Samar where a barangay chairman reported that the mayor of his town allegedly deprived all of the residents in his barangay from receiving SAP because he is not a political supporter of the mayor.”