Bong Go calls out DSWD for selective implementation of aid intended for the poor; supports institutionalizing AICS program

Bong Go calls out DSWD for selective implementation of aid intended for the poor; supports institutionalizing AICS program

AT a public hearing on Tuesday, April 23, held by the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lambasted the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for delays and inconsistencies in the distribution of aid through the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program.

The hearing, presided over by committee chairperson Senator Imee Marcos, was intended to discuss proposed measures to institutionalize the AICS program as well as other bills focused on enhancing social welfare programs for the poor.

Go also filed Senate Bill No. 2638 that aims to institutionalize the program and ensure that it would be implemented without delay. According to Go, his bill makes it “unlawful for any individual, public officials or employee of the DSWD or any local government unit to cause a delay in the implementation of the delivery of AICS’ services or funds to the qualified beneficiaries.”

Go detailed the establishment of the AICS program in 2014, aimed at providing immediate support to Filipinos facing sudden hardships. Despite its good intentions, he pointed out issues surrounding the seeming selectiveness and delay in the implementation of the program.

“I first raised this during the DSWD budget hearing last September 20, 2023. I once again raised this during the budget interpellations in plenary last November 14, 2023. Umabot na po sa 2024, ilang beses na rin po tayong nagpa-follow up nito sa ating DSWD… Kaya lang po medyo talagang mabagal,” he added.

Go raised recent mishaps by citing examples wherein the implementation of the program was plagued with delays, anomalies and alleged politicking, voicing out the grievances of many affected by calamities like Typhoon Egay.

“Ano ba talaga ang plano niyo dito? Ilang beses na natin pina-follow up sa inyo. Hindi ko po alam kung bakit kailangang magmakaawa ng mga benepisyaryo na makatanggap ng tulong mula sa DSWD,” he asked.

“Mandato naman ng DSWD na tulungan po ang in crisis at mga nangangailangan. Mandato ng DSWD na tumulong ng walang pili. Kaya nga po natin tinawag itong AICS – Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation,” he asserted.

Go also cited that aside from the assistance provided by the government for qualified beneficiaries, he has consistently made efforts in previous years to also extend personal support to the poor.

“Ako po’y kadalasan na tumutulong po sa ating mga mahihirap nating kababayan. Nagbibigay po ako ng aking counterpart mismo dito. Personal ko ito, hindi po ito mula sa DSWD – yung mga grocery packs, galing po sa akin yan, pagkain, pinapa-merienda ko sila… vitamins, mga face masks. Gusto ko talagang tulungan sila yung mga naging biktima ng sunog, lindol, putok ng bulkan, buhawi, at iba pang disaster,” he said.

However, he shared a recent case that happened in Alaminos, Pangasinan wherein a DSWD personnel allegedly prohibited beneficiaries from receiving support from Go’s office and directed them not to mention Go’s name during the aid distribution.

“Unang-una, totoo ba ito na bawal po banggitin ang aking pangalan, pero sa ibang pulitiko hindi bawal? …Hindi niyo po kailangan banggitin yung pangalan ko, hindi ko po kailangan ‘yan. Sabihin niyo lang po sa kanila tulong po ito mula sa gobyerno, tulong po ito sa mga mahihirap. ‘Wag lang po tayo maging selective… ‘Wag niyo po haluan ng pulitika,” he said.

“Ito pa ang pangalawa. Bakit bawal akong pumunta? Bakit yung ibang pulitiko, hindi bawal pumunta?,” he asked.

The senator asserted the public nature of the funds involved while calling for fairness, inclusivity and transparency in its distribution intended for qualified beneficiaries.

“Pangatlong tanong ko, pera niyo ba ‘yan? Pera ng taumbayan ‘yan… Hindi n’yo po pera ‘yan. Just be fair! …Pinaglaban namin ang budget ninyo… panahon pa ni dating pangulong Duterte. Alam niyo during the time of president Duterte, walang pinipili,” he cited.

 “Wag niyo naman po sana pagkait kung meron po akong gustong dalhin na tulong sa kanila… Personal ko naman ‘yun. Personal ko po yung grocery packs, personal ko yung Jollibee kung gusto ko pakainin, gusto kong pasayahin mga kababayan natin sa panahon ng kanilang kalungkutan. Mapasaya ko man lang sa kanila. Bakit niyo naman po ipagkait sa kanila?,” he criticized further.

Go also questioned DSWD Sec. Rex Gatchalian about alleged selective practices in aid distribution, specifically pointing out an incident involving delayed payouts in Mindanao.

“Halimbawa… sa Mindanao. Meron due doon for payout na dapat nang ibigay na sa kanila, naka-hold ‘yun for many months… Then nung pumunta ka, dinoble mo. Dinagdagan mo. Pwede pala ‘yung ganun?,” questioned the senator.

“…months naghintay yung mga beneficiaries. PhP3,000 yung matatanggap nila pero naghintay sila ng limang buwan. Kailangan ba nila maghintay ng lindol sa lugar nila bago niyo i-release? Kailangan pa ba na pumunta ka bago i-release?,” he stressed.

The senator also criticized DSWD’s recurring excuse of insufficient funds for aiding indigents when a huge budget was allocated by both houses of Congress for the AICS program this year.

“Ang nangyayari ngayon, sasabihin niyo walang pera, walang cash… ‘yun naman ‘yung uniform answer niyo, ‘di ba? Walang cash, hindi pa na-release,” he said.

“Pero ‘pag paborito niyo ‘yung pulitiko, uy, may cash na bukas. ‘Pag sunog, ‘sorry, sir, walang cash.’ Papahirapan niyo mga Pilipino. (Nasunugan) na nga, back to zero. Ni walang pambaon, walang pambili ng damit, hindi maka-aral, papahirapan niyo pa kasi walang cash ang DSWD,” he added.

Go then asked for updates on lists of qualified beneficiaries still awaiting assistance from DSWD and urged them to minimize the delays.

“Pinapa-submit niyo naman pero baka maubos pa pamasahe nila sa kakabalik sa inyong opisina. Baka lugi pa sila sa tatlong libong ibibigay niyo sa kanila sa kakabalik. Kawawang Pilipino,” he said.

Advocating for reforms, Go argued for the need to institutionalize the AICS to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most and ensure the program is not being used as a tool for political leverage.

“Naaawa ako sa mahihirap. Mahirap na nga, papahirapan pa. Sana ‘wag naman pong ganun. Kaya tayo naririto para isabatas ito, i-institutionalize ito. Pero kung isasabatas natin ito na hindi yung mahirap yung makikinabang, ‘wag nalang, kawawa yung mga Pilipino,” he said.

“May mga programa na makakatulong na mapabilis ang serbisyo. Halimbawa… andiyan yung Malasakit Center. Walang pili ‘yan, basta Pilipino ka, qualified ka… Pagpatuloy niyo lang yung mga programa na makakatulong… ‘Wag niyo pigilan, ‘wag niyo sirain, ‘wag niyo pahirapan ang mga Pilipino. Pera po ng taumbayan ‘yan… sa Pilipino po ‘yan,” he ended.

 

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