MANILA, Philippines – After backlash from netizens and even lawmakers, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) took down posts of advisories reminding the public to secure permits and pay respective fees if they want to conduct donation drives.
“DSWD took down the post to review the guidelines on public solicitation and make the process more responsive to the emergency situation and harmonize it with the resolution of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on public solicitation. This includes automating the process and waiving the application fees,” DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao told reporters on Thursday evening, April 16.
In the original posts on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, April 15, the DSWD invoked Presidential Decree 1564 that says soliciting donations is regulated by law.
“Unauthorized public solicitation activities” amid the coronavirus pandemic prompted the advisory. The posts were eventually taken down on Thursday.
The processing fees for the donation drive permits were P500 for regional fund drives and P1,000 for national fund drives, as provided under DSWD Administrative Order No. 170 issued in 2012.
Earlier on Thursday morning, the DSWD told Rappler in a phone interview that if fundraisers for donation drives are not regulated, it would be difficult for the government to track them.
“Ang hirap ‘pag puwedeng kahit sinong mag-fundraise, baka kung sino na, at ‘di na matrack ng government (It is difficult when just anyone can conduct a fundraiser and the government cannot track them anymore),” said Nathy Cause of the DSWD’s Standards Bureau.
Former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo was one of the many who hit the advisory, urging the department to suspend the implementation of the law.
“It is legal, yes, but is it in consonance with the huge humanitarian demands to address the COVID-19 pandemic? Definitely not,” Taguiwalo said in a Facebook post.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, the government is mandated to distribute emergency subsidies to 18 million poor and vulnerable families in the country further disadvantaged by the coronavirus pandemic. The DSWD has P200 billion to carry out the subsidy program for two months.
DSWD chief Rolando Bautista earlier acknowledged “gaps and shortcomings” in the implementation of the emergency subsidy program. (READ: Duterte chaos leaves barangay officials ‘helpless’ amid lockdown)
Bautista disclosed that around 80% of local governments nationwide have received the emergency funds from the DSWD as of Thursday.
The Philippines is under a state of calamity due to the coronavirus outbreak. Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine until April 30, while other parts of the country have also implemented lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.
As of Thursday, the Philippines has 5,660 coronavirus cases, with 362 deaths and 435 recoveries. The number of infections worldwide surpassed 2 million, while over 137,000 people have died across 193 countries and territories. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com