Persons who are already dead, minors, and those already living overseas are among the 22.9 million Filipinos listed as beneficiaries in the latest round of the government’s COVID 19-related cash amelioration program, a lawmaker bared on Friday, April 16.
Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list Representative Jericho Nograles said that in Barangay 44 in Pasay City, for instance, a person who has been dead since August of last year, minors who are not qualified as beneficiaries, and a former house helper now living in Mindanao were among those listed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as cash aid recipients.
“My office received inquiries and reports on questionable beneficiaries. This comes as no surprise, but clearly, the DSWD and the COA (Commission on Audit) should look into this,” Nograles said.
The supplemental amelioration program (SAP) was launched after the government placed the National Capital Region and the surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna — the so-called “NCR Plus” bubble — under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for two weeks following a spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases over the recent weeks.
Under the program, 22.9 million individuals shall be given a P1,000 cash aid, which shall not exceed P4,000 per household.
Nograles said that these cases might indicate a sample of thousands more of unqualified people on the DSWD’s amelioration list.
“In that barangay in Pasay City for example, some people were surprisingly included in the new list, despite the fact that they are minors. We all know minors should not be in the list,” he said.
“In that same barangay, a kasambahay (household help) who had already left for Mindanao was still listed, and, in contrast, another kasambahay who is still a resident in the area had been de-listed. It is easy to suspect and surmise, but it is the duty of government to find out why and how did this happen,” he added.
In Cainta, Rizal, a person who lives and works in Qatar was also listed as recipient, he added.
Nograles said these “glaring” irregularities should be investigated by the DSWD and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as he stressed that every centavo in the P22.9-billion amelioration fund must be fully accounted for and the people who abused it must be punished.
“Ako nga na congressman may mga natatanggap akong mga information at puro documented pa (As a congressman, I receive documented information). I’m sure may mga information din na dumadating sa kanila (there is information also reaching them) and they should act on them even without any formal complaint. President Duterte made it very clear that they should look into these allegations of misappropriations of the amelioration fund,” Nograles said.
Government officials found to be deliberately falsifying the list would face trouble with the Ombudsman, he stressed.
“Kung may dagdag-bawas sa listahan, dapat lalong suriin yan (An investigation should be undertaken if there are irregularities in the list),’’ he said.
“I hope DSWD can defend the listing because technical malversation and malversation of public funds is a serious crime that must be reported,’’ he added.
Nograles said the slow implementation and rollout of the national ID system is partly to blame and stressed that this could have served as a strong deterrent against the practice of creating falsified list of aid recipients.
“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that countries with a National ID System had an easier time managing the accounting, contact tracing, and vaccine rollout. I hope that the DICT will consider a faster rollout despite these current challenges,” said the lawmakers, one of the co-authors of the law.
“If we had an integrated National ID system, when a person is deceased, the ID system will be updated and the cash aid will be adjusted accordingly. The same goes with the voting list for this coming and succeeding elections,’’ he pointed out.