MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) spent millions of pesos to send about 100 street families to a Batangas resort while Pope Francis was in Manila, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said.
“P4.8 million (was spent from) January 14 to 19,” Soliman confirmed during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, January 27, stressing the trip was a regular “family camp” the agency organizes.
“We already had 6 family camps so far. It started when we were responding to the challenge of street children,” Soliman said.
The camps were originally intended for street children, and their parents were included only in 2012, according to Soliman.
Aside from orienting families on the DSWD Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program, camp activities included basic literacy, character building, counseling, vocation and life skills training, medical services, and sports clinics, Soliman explained.
This year’s camp cost over P4 million, covering the stay of 427 individuals at Chateau Royale Sports and Country Club in Nasugbu, Batangas. Past camps were held mostly out-of-town, in resorts like Island Cove, except that the first camp was held in the Boys Town government facility. Representatives from local government units (LGUs) and DSWD also join the camps.
Nichie Torres, residential manager of the Batangas resort, confirmed that DSWD booked 75 rooms for the families.
“We treated them as regular guests, made them feel what it feels to be in a resort,” Torres said.
Soliman stressed that DSWD does not hire travel agents for such camps, adding that Chateau Royale was selected through a bidding process.
“Hindi namin ito pinili dahil high-end, kundi dahil malaki ito, kasya lahat ng pamilya.” (We didn’t choose this because it’s high-end, but because it’s big, all families can fit.)
Family Camp 2015 Actual Expenses
|Food and accommodations||P4,296,600.00|
History of DSWD Family Camps Expenditures
|Year||Total spending||Budget source|
Comprehensive Program for Street Children Fund
|2012||P1.4 M, P26 M||Comprehensive Program for Street Children Fund|
|2014||P4.7 M||Comprehensive budget under Social Technology Fund|
Comprehensive budget under Social Technology Fund
Soliman clarified camp funds came from her department’s Social Technology Bureau, correcting her earlier statement that it was funded by the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). The bureau is in charge of testing whether programs are “efficient.”
“Totoo na bilang paghahanda sa pagdating ni Pope Francis, these LGUs [Manila, Parañaque, Pasay] nagnais na maayos ang Roxas Boulevard,” Soliman admitted. “At iligtas ang mga pamilyang nandoon. Dadami ang tao, maaari sila madiskrimina at magamit ng sindikato,” she added.
(True, in preparation for Pope Francis’ arrival, these LGUs wanted to clear Roxas Boulevard. And to save the families there. The crowd would swell, they might be discriminated against or exploited by syndicates.)
DSWD, according to Soliman, also used the opportunity to register the families with the MCCT program, which provides families with children aged 3 to 18 cash grants – on condition that parents attend Family Development Sessions, and children are sent to school and health check-ups.
Each family gets P500 per child for education support, and another P500 for health. The house rental is directly paid by DSWD, “‘Di namin binibigay pambayad sa kanila,” Soliman said. (We don’t give them the rent money.)
Soliman said the resort was a better option than transferring the families to overcrowded government facilities.
The program also provides a temporary cash-for-work program, usually hiring parents as street sweepers, earning P340/day until the program ends. To take the families off the streets, the program shoulders families’ house rentals for 6 to 12 months, covering a maximum rent of P4,000/month.
Meanwhile, those who have their own land are given P75,000 to help build their house.
Where are the families now?
Media reports showed that the families “were thrown back in the streets” after the Batangas outing. But Soliman emphasized that 75 families went back to their own or relatives’ houses.
“‘Yung 25, ‘yung iba nasa RAC [Reception and Action Center]. ‘Yung iba kinakausap namin para magkaroon na sila ng bahay na uupahan ng pamahalaan as part of MCCT.” (The 25, some are in RAC. We’re talking to the others in finding homes that the government will rent as part of MCCT.)
Critics, however, insisted the government could have used the money spent on the family camp for other purposes. (READ: Netizens speak up on street families ‘hidden’ from Pope)
“Ang tanong niyo, hindi ba dapat nagamit ‘yung budget sa ibang paraan?” said Soliman. “Itong paraan na aming ginagawa sa pagtulong sa MCCT, ito nga ho ay isang hakbang na sa tingin namin ay worth investing.”
(Your question is, shouldn’t the funds [for family camps] be used for other purposes? Our way of helping through MCCT, this is a step which we think is worth investing in.)
Catherin Scerri of Bahay Tuluyan, the NGO which first reported the missing street families, acknowledged that the family camps have “good elements,” but that the development of sustainable jobs could have been a better solution.
“We also questioned the camping if it’s a good way to spend funding,” Scerri said.
“Instead of randomly grabbing people off the street, do case management, and have social workers on the streets, understanding the families’ needs,” Scerri said. – Rappler.com