The House of Representatives on Monday directed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to immediately review and assess the causes of delay in the implementation of Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
During the joint hearing of the House Committee on Good Government and House Committee on Public Accountability, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said shortcomings in the implementation of SAP were topped by the adoption of a “complicated” 30-step SAP process from the selection of qualified beneficiaries to the actual release of funds to the chosen recipients.
According to Cayetano, the 30-step SAP process has caused delays and led the DSWD to “miss distribution deadlines twice” and eventually defer the payout of the second tranche due for the month of May.
The House Speaker said the DSWD prescribed a lengthy and complicated procedure requiring a total of 30 steps and five layers of approval with an estimated completion time of three weeks.
The steps included obtaining certifications from barangays that the applicant-residents were in need of assistance; validation of the Special Amelioration Card (SAC) forms by the barangays, as well as by city or municipal social welfare officers and by the mayors; review by cities, or municipalities, of completeness and correctness of data for submission to the DSWD central office; another review of submitted documents by designated DSWD personnel; and coordination by local government units (LGU), following their receipt of SAP funds, with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and request of assistance from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.
Besides the long bureaucratic process, Cayetano also raised the issues on slow and inadequate aid, alleged corruption, DSWD’s insensitive to vulnerable sectors, duplication of beneficiaries and confusion among local governments and barangays.
Cayetano also said there has been a failure in communication with the DSWD regional directors as some LGUs have complained that they were not open to suggestions from local officials.
During the hearing, DSWD Undersecretary Danilo Pamonag admitted that the agency has encountered challenges in implementing the first tranche of SAP such as emergence of wait-listed beneficiaries caused by prioritization, mobility constraint to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, exposure of SAP implementers to health risks and presence of security threats.
Pamonag also noted stringent validation process of LGUs in determining eligible beneficiaries.
“[We] experienced mobility constraints due to geographical difficulties and lack of sea and air transportation support in the distribution of SAP,” he said.
Pamonag said SAP implementers are also facing risk of contracting Covid-19, saying observance of the 14-day quarantine caused delay in SAP distribution.
He added security threats posed by the presence of rebel forces and Muslim clan wars led to payout postponement and some government forces were ambushed, or harassed by rebel forces.
“Threats and intimidations against SAP implementers by disgruntled individuals hindered the distribution of subsidy,” Pamonag added.
But he said 1,560 out of 1,634 LGUs have already completed their payouts to low-income families.
For the second tranche of SAP, Pamonag said the DSWD has started the payout last June 11 with 4Ps beneficiaries and wait-listed families in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The investigation was conducted by the chamber after Cayetano, Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Raneo Abu, Dan Fernandez and Neptali Gonzales II; accounts committee Chairman Abraham Tolentino; Metro Manila development committee Chairman Manuel Luis Lopez; Deputy Majority Leader Cristal Bagatsing and health committee Vice Chairman Ruth Mariano Hernandez have filed House Resolution 973 to look into the undue delay in SAP distribution.
The lawmakers also said the requirement of SAC were “too long, tedious and intimidating” for the intended beneficiaries to accomplish.
They said it is also “arbitrary,” basing its “restrictive” master list of target recipients from the 2015 national consensus, which caused discrepancies between government data and those of local government units that were realistically based on the latest figures of community residents.
The lawmakers also said the DSWD also failed to “coordinate closely” with LGU officials on project implementation.
Moreover, Cayetano said, the House wants to hear from the DSWD “what their plans are, if, God forbids, a lockdown is imposed again, if they can distribute aid efficiently.”
“But that was the intention in giving the SAC forms house-to-house, isn’t it? So, all of these issues have to be ventilated in the inquiry for the purpose of coming up with a better system,” he said.
He recalled that before Congress approved the Bayanihan Law last March 23, agencies promised to distribute the first tranche of P100 billion “in 10 days.”
“But what happened? The distribution for April was finished in May. They told us that P200 billion was needed to help 18 million poor and near-poor families: P100 billion for April and P100 billion for May,” Cayetano said.