Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos has called out the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for trying to “turn the tables” on the Metro mayors and essentially blame them for the litany of complaints regarding the National Capital Region (NCR) one-time cash assistance list.
“That’s a very unfair statement. [The Metro mayors] should never receive this kind of treatment, more at that from the DSWD, which, under the guidelines, are the ones that should provide the list [of beneficiaries],” Abalos told the Manila Bulletin on Friday night, April 16.
Abalos was referring to statements made by DSWD Spokesperson Irene Dumlao and Usec. Rene Glen Paje earlier Friday that the local government units (LGUs) had the discretion to identify the recipients of the P1,000-per-person air amid the recent reimposition of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in NCR or Metro Manila.
Dumlao and Paje gave the remarks in the backdrop of growing public anger as many low-income earners–the supposed target of the dole out–haven’t seen their names on the list. The mayors serve as head of the LGUs.
“They (mayors) are really upset with what’s happening. My wife is also a mayor,” Abalos said, referring to Mandaluyong City Mayor Carmelita Abalos.
“They are getting bashed. All of the mayors are getting bashed because of those lists,” underscored Abalos, who works closely with the Metro Manila Council (MMC) in his capacity as MMDA chairman. The 17 mayors of NCR comprise the MMC.
“The mayors have worked hard for this not only in the ayuda (cash aid distribution) but in all aspects against COVID (coronavirus disease). I really sympathize with them. Hindi tama at hindi nakakatulong yung ganitong nagtuturuan (It’s neither right nor helpful to point fingers),” he said.
Abalos said the mayors have relied on the lists given to them by the DWSD in order to facilitate the much-needed dole out. He said that while the local chief executives have noticed problems with their lists–such as erroneous listings–they’ve chosen to quietly address the issues themselves.
“Mayroong [nasa] listahan, mayroong wala sa listahan…lahat ng mura inabot na ng mga mayor (There are people on the list, and there people not on the list…the mayors have received all kinds of invectives),” the MMDA chief said.
Abalos took exception to Paje’s claim that the DSWD list of identified beneficiaries was meant to serve as a “mere reference” and that it was “not exact”.
“Dapat nilagay sa guideline na ‘hindi eksakto’. Sabihin nila, ‘The LGU has the flexibility to do it, this is not a strict list.’ Kaya nagwawala mga tao (The guidelines should have said, ‘this isn’t exactly’. They should have said, ‘The LGU has the flexibility to do it, this is not a strict list.’ This is why people are angry),” Abalos said, referring to Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 1 series of 2021.
The JMC on the cash aid was signed by the DSWD, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Department of National Defense (DND).
“Klarong klaro ang technical guidelines (The technical guidelines are very clear). They (DSWD) shall provide for the list of beneficiaries that will be used as reference. The thing speaks for itself, klarong klaro po iyan. Maski sino siguro magbasa nito (it’s very clear, anyone can understand it),” Abalos said.
He said it would have been better if the DSWD simply came clean and admitted that their lists were faulty from the outset. From there, the agency could have asked the mayors to help “fill in the gaps” of the list.
“If they gave a list [that’s] deficient, aminin nila (they should admit it). ‘Pasensya na sa LGU kung nasisisi kayo, pakipunuan na lang (Sorry to the LGUs if you’re getting blamed, please fill in the gaps). [Don’t resort to] turning the tables and pointing at the mayors. That’s not good, that’s not proper.
“The least that they could have done was correct the misimpression with the public, admit the deficiency of the list, and apologize not only to the public, but to the mayors,” Abalos said.