Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, April 19, joined calls for the government to fix its list of beneficiaries of the government’s cash assistance program to effect safe and speedy release of these funds to recipients.
Hontiveros lamented the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had an entire year to fix the database of cash aid recipients and devise a better aid distribution yet both agencies have not made much progress.
“The DSWD and DILG should look closely into all reports of problems involving the distribution of financial assistance, which is a matter of life and death for many Filipinos during this crisis,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Nakakalungkot na 2021 na pero hindi pa rin maayos ang proseso ng pagbibigay ng ayuda. Ang haba-haba ng pinipila ng mga kababayan natin para lang kumuha ng ayuda, pero pagdating nila sa distribution venue, madami ang wala sa listahan at walang mauuwi sa kanilang pamilya (It’s sad that it’s already 2021 and yet the process of giving cash aid is still in shambles. The people have to contend with long queues just to get cash but as soon as they are at the distribution venue, many of them are not in the list and have nothing to bring home to their families),” she lamented.
Aside from that, Hontiveros said the struggles Filipinos face, such as the erroneous list and crowded distribution venues, could create a potential “super spreader” event and more people could be infected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Nakakabahala iyan, dahil kasama sa mga pumipila at nakikipagsiksikan para sa ayuda ay maraming senior citizen na mas vulnerable sa COVID-19 at iba pang sakit (And that’s worrying because among those who are lining up for cash aid are senior citizens who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses),” she pointed out.
The senator said the DSWD and DILG must create a unified and comprehensive database of cash aid recipients from the various existing lists of aid beneficiaries held by the DSWD and local government units (LGUs).
Hontiveros said the DSWD, for its part, must complete its “poverty survey” to determine the true number and identities of poor Filipinos who need financial assistance during the pandemic.
In the meantime, she said the DSWD and DILG should remove errors in the government’s list of aid beneficiaries, including removing dead, fictitious or unqualified persons.
The government should also immediately investigate and prosecute officials or employees involved in acts of corruption or fraud using these assistance funds.
“The government should act with a sense of urgency and due diligence. Buhay ng Pilipino ang nakataya dito (Filipino lives are at stake here),” she said.
“Kung makupad ang pamahalaan sa pagbigay ng ayuda, baka hindi sa virus mamatay na ang mga kababayan kundi sa gutom (If the government is slow in granting cash aid, our people might die, not because of the virus, but due to hunger),” Hontiveros emphasized.