DILG, DSWD extending deadline for LGUs to complete April cash aid

Michelle Abad
DILG, DSWD extending deadline for LGUs to complete April cash aid
DILG chief Eduardo Año says they understand that it is difficult to distribute cash aid while observing physical distancing in areas that are densely populated, like in Metro Manila

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) announced on Thursday, April 30, that it was studying allowing local government units (LGUs) a 7-day extension to distribute cash aid to families in need in their areas.

In an interview with DZMM on Thursday morning, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said Metro Manila mayors requested an extension for April payouts from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the emergency subsidy program (ESP)’s lead implementor.

“All 17 mayors, including myself, pumirma na ho kami ng isang request letter (we signed a request letter) initiated by [Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Danilo Lim] requesting our good secretary of the DSWD… for an extension,” said Zamora.

Zamora said San Juan City lagged behind in the ESP implementation because city officials carefully validated the names included in the list of beneficiaries.

Pinag-aaralan namin ni DSWD Secretary [Rolando] Bautista ‘yung situation ng Metro Manila at iba pang mga lugar na may high-density population. At nakita namin na valid naman ‘yung kanilang reasons. Kasi, kaya naman nilang i-distribute ‘yan sa takdang oras, pero mavi-violate ‘yung physical distancing, so bale wala din ‘yun, na-defeat din natin ‘yung purpose na ‘wag mag-ispread ng virus,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.

(DSWD Secretary Bautista and I are studying the studying the situation of Metro Manila and other places with high-density populations. We saw that they have valid reasons. The thing is, they can distribute on time, but it would violate the prohibition on physical distancing. So the purpose of containing the spread of the virus is defeated.)

Año said they were giving a 7-day extension for April payouts to Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Bulacan, Cebu City, and Davao City.

Other LGUs with similar problems might be given a 4-day extension.

Malacañang earlier said that local officials who fail to distribute cash aid on time could face criminal or administrative charges.

As of April 29, the DSWD said it downloaded P80.8 billion to 1,515 LGUs, but only P50.1 billion have been disbrused to 9.5 million families. This means that only around 52% of the 18 million families qualified for the ESP have received their promised cash aid.

Only 104 out of 1,632 LGUs have conducted 100% payouts, according to Bautista.

Validation process

In order to speed up the distribution of cash aid, the DSWD adjusted a policy on April 16 that payouts should be conducted first, and validation could follow.

According to the omnibus guidelines for social amelioration, local governments are required to liquidate the funds for the ESP 15 days after conducting payouts. This liquidation report would be validated by the DSWD to ensure the people who received aid are truly qualified for the program.

However, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said validation could be conducted simultaneously – meaning local officials could liquidate funds for the subsidies they have already given, and the DSWD could check them even if the payouts are not 100% complete.

But the cash for the second tranche of the ESP for the month of May will only be released to the LGUs once liquidation is complete.

The DILG earlier ordered local governments to publicize the list of people who received subsidies in their locality for transparency purposes.

Reports of local officials having difficulty implementing the ESP have surfaced – since the national list sometimes did not reconcile with the actual number of families in need. 

Poor families also experienced inconvenience and prolonged hunger because DSWD aid has been slow to arrive.

Malacañang also announced a shift of policy for the ESP’s implementation for May, where only poor families under enhanced community quarantine areas would receive aid. The Inter-agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to release guidelines for this. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.