House welcomes Rex Gatchalian’s appointment as DSWD secretary

The experience of incoming Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian as a local chief executive will be an asset for the agency, lawmakers on Wednesday said.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., Northern Samar Rep. Paul R. Daza, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, Deputy Speaker Rep. Ralph Recto and Manila Rep. Benny Abante agreed that President Marcos made a great choice in appointing Gatchalian as DSWD chief because of his sterling record both as a local chief executive and as a lawmaker.

“Being a three-time mayor of Valenzuela City, his personal touch in attending to the needs of his constituents will be invaluable as he takes the helm of the DSWD,” Barzaga said.

“Rex, who is a graduate of the George Washington University, has been my colleague in the House of Representatives where he was elected thrice so I know his competence and capacity as a public servant and more importantly, I know that he has a heart for the poor,” he added.

As a mayor, one of his programs was the Barangay-Based Feeding Program (BBFP), Valenzuela City’s free supply of nutritious, ready-to-cook food for undernourished children.

They also had the Kitchen-on-Wheels program which is the mobile kitchen used by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) to immediately deliver meals to typhoon victims or disaster-stricken communities.

During his tenure as three-term mayor of Valenzuela City, Daza, for his part, said Gatchalian vastly improved the Health and Social Services in his constituency.

“His exemplary performance as Valenzuela’s chief local executive, especially during the pandemic, showed his understanding of the problems on the ground and his commitment to public service,” he said.

“As his fellow congressman in the august halls of the House of Representatives, and as his friend, I am confident that under his leadership, the DSWD will be guided by the same professionalism and compassion that have defined his successful career. A success that, I firmly believe, he can replicate in handling the country’s social and poverty alleviation programs,” Daza added.

For Salceda, Gatchalian’s governance of Valenzuela during the Covid-19 pandemic—through award-winning initiatives in contact tracing and the use of big data and statistics—showed a commitment to evidenced-based and data-driven governance.

“He is obsessed with results. He will get things done. When I was Governor of Albay, Valenzuela was one of our toughest competitors for awards for good governance. Secretary Gatchalian has been one of the country’s most innovative mayors. Valenzuela has pioneered several best practices that many of us in government look up to as examples to emulate in our own communities. These include Bahay Kalinga for elderly citizens and the Valenzuela Child Protection Center,” he added.

Gatchalian comes well prepared for one of the “toughest and thankless” jobs in government, Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto, for his part, said.

Recto said the Valenzuela lawmaker has what it takes to run DSWD, which he described as “one gigantic ATM—Ayuda, Tulong Machine.”

With a 2023 budget of P199 billion, DSWD, he said, will serve about 56 million people, or more than half of the population this year.

DSWD maintains a regular payroll bigger than the national government’s, in terms of payees, said Recto. It oversees the distribution of “G-Cash or government cash” to millions of senior citizens and impoverished families, to name just two recipient sectors, he added.

For this year, 22 million people in 4.4 million households get monthly stipends under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The program has a budget of P102.6 billion, which is bigger than the Department of Agriculture’s budget of P99 billion.

It will also provide 4,085,066 indigent seniors with a P6,000 annual pension, at a cost to the government of P25 billion.

Recto said DSWD also runs a “big catering operation.”

With a budget of P5.2 billion this year, it will feed 1,754,637 children aged two to five in community and neighborhood sites. “That is almost 200 million meals served.”

Another big-ticket item in the DSWD budget, Recto pointed out, is the P36.8 billion for “Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances.” The program aims to help 1.7 million beneficiaries.

Abante said Gatchalian’s nine years as a local chief executive will serve him well in the DSWD.

“Aside from an excellent track record as Valenzuela mayor,” said the lawmaker, “our former colleague has firsthand experience working on the ground, and is familiar with the concerns and challenges involved in implementing national social protection programs that target the poor, vulnerable, and the disadvantaged, such as the 4Ps.”

The legislator also pointed out that “as a believer in the Bible, Gatchalian has demonstrated compassionate leadership, which is evident in his concern for the underprivileged, as shown in his programs in Valenzuela.”

Under the stewardship of Gatchalian, Valenzuela City was awarded citations for programs involving livability and disaster preparedness, employment and micro-entrepreneurship development, health and social protection, and peace and order.


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