MANILA, Philippines – In her speech at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) turnover rites in July, Secretary Judy Taguiwalo made sure that she drew the line between the past and present administrations, as the highlighted the Duterte administration’s battlecry.
“Tunay na malasakit para sa mahihirap (Genuine concern for the poor),” she said.
“We will work towards a more transparent DSWD, and a department that will be able to maximize its resources to assist the poor not only survive but to stand on their own feet as productive members of the community,” Taguiwalo said. (WATCH: From Dinky to Judy: Change comes to DSWD)
Since then, Taguiwalo has pursued her mission largely outside the national spotlight. The only time she hogged the headlines was when she drew the ire of legislators at the House hearing on the proposed 2017 budget.
Taguiwalo earlier issued an order that sough to “weaken” endorsement letters from politicians in identifying DSWD beneficiaries. She also stressed that the directive merely upholds the High Court’s 2013 ruling that pork barrel is unconstitutional. (READ: Congressmen on DSWD’s ‘anti-padrino’ memo: We hold the money)
At the House hearing, she clarified that her department will continue to receive referral letters from legislators, but said these would not guarantee their approval.
Taguiwalo noted that the policy was “aimed at democratizing access to services.”
Here are some of the changes and new policy directions which Taguiwalo introduced at the DSWD in her first 100 days in office.
One of Taguiwalo’s priorities is to first change the agency “within”.
When she attended her first flag-raising activity atthe DSWD’s central office in Quezon City, Taguiwalo promised to implement reforms that will benefit the 26,400-strong workforce of the agency.
Taguiwalo said management will review the Collective Negotiations Agreement (CNA) with the Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP), to see how it can be more responsive to employees’ concerns, such as granting more benefits to memorandum of agreement (MOA) workers and allowing flexible working schedule, among others.
SWEAP is the workers’ union at the agency while the CNA is an agreement which ensures that the rights of the DSWD employees are protected and the right benefits are accorded to them.
“Hanggang kaya natin na maibigay ang mga dagdag na benepisyo ay gagawin natin sa pagtutulungan ng management at unyon (As long as we are capable of giving these additional benefits, we shall do these with the joint effort of the DSWD management and the employees’ union),” she said.
Staying true to her promise, the DSWD and the SWEAP signed a CNA on August 26.
The agency’s move to empower its workforce is also connected to its bigger vision of ensuring that DSWD stays true to the secretary’s marching order: serve the people.
Even before her stint as DSWD Secretary, Taguiwalo was a champion for the rights of workers. She is the founder of the All UP Academic Employees Union.
4Ps a ‘stop-gap measure’
Under her leadership, Taguiwalo dismissed the idea of institutionalizing the 4Ps program, a move which her predecessor, Dinky Soliman, endorsed before she left the agency.
Taguiwalo allayed fears that the program will be totally scrapped, but said there will be no new beneficiaries under 4Ps, instead.
Her vision is to complement the program with “initiatives that will help the poor stand on their own through jobs, asset reforms, and other pro-people economic and social reform initiatives.”
“We are also looking at the reports – a number actually. [A] relatively big number has graduated already because their children have [finished] college,” she said.
El Niño victims, Yolanda rehabilitation
Taguiwalo also gave assurances that victims of past natural calamities – like El Niño and the Super Typhoon Yolanda – will receive what they deserve.
Coming on the heels of a Commission on Audit (COA) report that a total of P907.56 million in Yolanda funds were misused by the Tacloban City government, Taguiwalo promised that the agency will review the projects and services related to the rehabilitation of communities affected by Yolanda in 2013. The report has since been denied by former mayor Alfred Romualdez.
“We also want transparency in all our programs. DSWD will review the COA report and validate the information provided. Any anomalous action or neglect on the selection of beneficiaries or on the overall implementation process will be dealt with appropriately,” Taguiwalo said in August.
The DSWD-Field Office X (DSWD-FO X) met with an estimated 4,000 El Niño-affected farmers from Bukidnon in July 2016 to discuss their request for rice assistance. They agreed on an outline of provision for rice assistance for the farmers. The agency also committed to provide 4,000 sacks of rice for the farmers from the municipality of Quezon and other affected towns in Bukidnon.
DSWD has also demonstrated its readiness during disasters, closely working with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in sending help to affected areas. (WATCH: Zero casualty: Government reaches isolated Batanes island)
Support for recovering drug dependents
DSWD proposed the operationalization and implementation of the “Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Transformation Support for Recovering Drug Dependents,” the third component of the National Drug Rehabilitation Program.
On instructions of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, the DSWD submitted the proposal to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for consolidation, and to the Department of Budget and Management for approval.
The proposal is for a total fund allocation of about P 1.4 billion for the period October 2016 to December 2017.
The target participants are 37,916 drug surrenderers from October to December 2016.
“What we want is to help the drug users and pushers who have surrendered to rehabilitate themselves and return to the fold of society as productive members,” she said.
“Our country’s drug problem has to be addressed through interventions that go to the root causes: poverty caused by lack of social support for many Filipinos, corruption in various levels in the various agencies of government, and lack of sustainable, productive employment for the poor,” Taguiwalo added.
Changes still to come
The agency’s other priorities, Taguiwalo said, include the following:
- Continue to extend financial assistance and other forms of immediate assistance and relief to marginalized and vulnerable sectors
- Ensure timely and adequate response to emergencies and calamities
- Improve and strengthen the capabilities and facilities of DSWD-run centers and institutions
- Exert full effort to address and remedy the impact of military operations on the livelihood, safety, security, schools and welfare of farmers and Lumad; provide for the needs of evacuees; and help displaced Lumad return to their ancestral land
- Develop and strengthen among DSWD personnel an ethic of service to the people which has no room for corruption
Given these lofty promises, the public has a reason to expect for more changes from the agency. Will Taguiwalo deliver? The public will see if such changes will happen in the next 6 years. – Rappler.com