Cayetano castigates DSWD for bungled SAP

Published June 22, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano let loose weeks of pent-up frustration over the delayed distribution of cash aid under the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) Monday during a House probe.

House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

“Hindi alam ng Pangulo na ganyan ang gawain niyo (The President is unaware that you’ve been doing things this way),” the visibly irked Cayetano told Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officials who appeared at the plenary. Other resource persons and House members joined the proceedings via Zoom.

Cayetano slammed the DSWD’s lengthy 30-step process in the distribution of SAP, a key feature of Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which Congress (House and Senate) rushed to pass in late March amid the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ)-induced economic standstill.

“Eh di sana hindi namin niratsada yung batas (If that’s the case then we shouldn’t have rushed the law),” said Cayetano, who represents Taguig ang Pateros. The law provides for the rollout of SAP in as short as 10 days.
“In a national emergency, kapit sa patalim ang mga tao…hindi dapat masyadong bureaucratic (In a national emergency, people are clinging on a knife’s edge…we shouldn’t be too bureaucratic),” he said.

Under SAP, some 18 million low-income families were supposed to get cash assistance worth P5,000 to P8,000, depending on region, per month for two months (April and May) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cayetano said the first payout came in May, causing a lot of people to go hungry since the ECQ had earlier stripped them of their livelihood.

The Speaker described the process adopted by DSWD as “tedious, inadequate, slow, and insensitive.”

“Before ng COVID napakaganda ng coordination natin…binibigay namin budget niyo. Tapos ganyan ang ipapakita niyo sa amin? (We had very good coordination before COVID…we give the budget that you ask for. Now you show us this?),” he asked.

RDs criticized

Cayetano expressed scorn on the Department’s regional directors (RDs) in particular, saying that they were way above their heads to handle the distribution and in some cases, were too slow to coordinate or reply to his direct interventions.

He bared cases where RDs refused to follow directives from DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista and his undersecretaries, who had been the ones advised by congressmen themselves on easing the burden of cash aid distribution.
“Tama bang sistema yung?….Sa DSWD, yung mga regional directors ang nasusunod. Eh di sana pala kayo na lang mi-neeting namin (Is that the correct system?…in DSWD, it’s the regional directors who call the shots. If that’s the case then we should’ve coordinated with you instead),” said Cayetano, who co-chairs the Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) along with House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.

Some RDs also reportedly fused the SAP cash aid with the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), which is an entirely separate form of assistance. This further added to the confusion on the ground.

Cavite 8th district Rep. Abraham Tolentino said this was the case in his province. “Na-hostage na kami, nasabi na namin sa mga tao na may tatanggapin sila kaya umoo na lang kami. (We were forced to agree since we already told the people that they would receive something).”

There were also unbearable delays in the distribution of food packs to indigent families. A flow-chart shown by Cayetano indicated that it took 53 days to deliver 7,000 out of 50,000 promised family food packs in his own district of Taguig-Pateros.

“Ang COA (Commission on Audit), walang pre-audit. May emergency powers kayong bumili (COA doesn’t do pre-audit. You have the emergency power to purchase),” the Speaker told an RD after the latter cited fears of a COA audit when asked why he failed to produce the needed number of food packs.
“Kayo (DSWD) ang minumura ng tao sa harapan namin, pero parang kami ang minumura (The people cuss you in front of us, but it also feels like we’re the ones being cussed),” Cayetano said,

Meanwhile, Romualdez stressed the importance of coming up with solutions during the hearing, which was called in aid of legislation.
“Iyan talaga ang katotohanan, iyun po ang hinaing talaga ng taong-bayan, lalo na ang constituents natin. Pero huwag kayong magkamali, nandito tayo para magkaisa na tayo. (That is the truth, those are the sentiments of the people, especially our constituents. But don’t be mistaken, we’re here so that we may be united),” Romualdez said.

The Majority Leader added: “Naiintindihan namin ang ginagawa ninyo pero (We understand what you are doing but) let’s become closer, let’s work in a better coordination…We are all teammates here .”

Bautista left out

Conspicuous in his absence Monday was DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista himself. Bulacan 1st district Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability–the panel that conducted the inquiry–said the official was purposely not invited.
Instead, it was the Department’s RDs and undersecretaries that filled their guest list.

“Maliwanag na sa level ni Sec. Bautista ay wala tayong problema…mabilis siya umaksyon. Unfair naman kung isasama natin siya dito (It’s clear that we don’t have a problem at the level of Sec. Bautista…he is quick to act. It would be unfair to make him come here),” Alvarado said.
While this was noted by panel vice-chairman, Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor, he said the DSWD head honcho must be fully aware of the agency’s woes in connection with SAP.

“Gusto kong ipaalala na mayroon ding command responsibility… Sana makita din niya itong mga problemang ito. (I would like to remind him that there’s also command responsibility…I hope he is seeing all of these problems),” Defensor said. (Ellson A. Quismorio)