LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Robbers on Tuesday, January 26, took some P3.4 million ($71,000) in government aid intended for 1,350 poor families under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Batan Island, Rapu-Rapu, Albay.
The money was supposed to be given to conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiaries on Wednesday to poor families of Batan Island, a 4- to 5-hour boat ride from Legazpi City port.
Senior Inspector Maria Luisa “Malu” Calubaquib, PNP regional spokesperson, said the burglars – who wore bonnets – took the money from Allan Competente and Richielda Batang, both employees of National Confederation Cooperative (Smart-Natco) at the residence of village councillor Eddie Bibat in Zone 2, Barangay Villahermosa.
Smart-Natco is the local conduit of the Land Bank of the Philippines, providing services to the 4Ps beneficiaries in Batan Island, Rapu-Rapu.
Priscilla Salabaga, DSWD regional program coordinator of Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino in Bicol, said the funds taken by the suspects was meant for 1,350 poor families in Batan Island covering 15 barangays. Salabaga said the P3.4 million budget covers the months of September to October 2015.
“The 1,350 poor beneficiary families will still receive their stipend but (the stipend) will be delayed. This is the first time incident reported in Bicol that the 4Ps cash intended for the beneficiaries lost to robbers,” she said.
Police authorities assigned in Rapu-Rapu Island town braved the big waves going to neighbouring Batan Island as a gale warning hoisted in Bicol region specifically in eastern seaboards of Albay to find the suspects.
Florita B. Barnedo, a local resident of barangay Villahermosa on Batan Island, walked uphill just to pick up mobile signal to seek police assistance through radio station DZGB. Barnedo said the suspects forcibly entered the house of village councilor Eddie Bibat, where the employees of Smart-Natco stayed for the past two years when they were tasked with delivering the money to the beneficiaries..
“The suspects hogtied the employees of Smart-Natco where (sir) Allan and his female officemate begged for their precious lives. The female employee was even hit on her face and head by the suspects and taken her personal money including gold bracelet,” Barnedo said. She added that she was also supposed to get P3,750 from the aid payout.
Due to this incident, DSWD officials told the local conduits tapped by Land Bank of the Philippines to get security assistance from the authorities specifically in far-flung towns to avoid similar incidents from occurring. – Rappler.com
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