Automated DSWD subsidy distribution still a problem in far-flung areas with no ATMs

A ranking congressman told the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that automating the distribution of cash aid to poor families does not guarantee a faster process if they live in far-flung areas.

Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte pointed this out during a House probe into the DSWD’s emergency subsidy program (ESP) on Tuesday, July 7, after department officials said the digital payment scheme would help hasten the process.

So far, only 1.3 million out of the targeted 13.5 million poor and vulnerable families have received the second tranche of their cash aid from the DSWD.

When Villafuerte questioned the perennial slowness of the process, Undersecretary Aimee Neri assured lawmakers that the financial service providers that they have partnered with are capable of disbursing the cash aid into the accounts of a million beneficiaries in just a day.

Villafuerte said this is not enough because there is a lack of automated teller machines (ATMs) in rural areas across the country.

But he conceded this is out of the jurisdiction of the DSWD, which has long been under fire for its slow distribution of the cash aid to 18 million poor households.

“So what I'm saying is, while GCash and others will say kaya nila one million, two million a day, I believe that. Pero when you’re talking about a far-flung barangay or area gaya sa amin na wala namang Landbank, DBP (Development Bank fo the Philippines), or ATM sa mga munisipiyo, saan sila, paano nila makukuha itong pera?” asked the Camarines Sur 2nd District congressman.

(So what I’m saying is, while GCash and others will say they can do one million, two million a day, I believe that. But when you’re talking about a far-flung barangay or area like in our place that does not have Landbank, DBP, or an ATM in the municipality, how will they withdraw the money?)

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista then said they could resort to going door-to-door to distribute the subsidy in rural areas.

He also suggested holding a “big venue payout,” where residents would be asked to line up in one venue to get the cash assistance.

“Puwede pong magkaroon ng big venue payout. Katuwang po natin to ang mga LGU (local government unit) para sila po ang mag-determine ng venue at no’ng tulong po sa pag-schedule,” Bautista said.

(We can hold a big venue payout. We can work with the LGUs to determine the venue and to get help in the schedule.)

But DSWD was already berated by Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor in the previous June 22 hearing because the department has been requiring beneficiaries of various social welfare programs to leave their homes and line up at designated distribution points.

This means the DSWD had placed them under risk of acquiring the coronavirus, with total number of infections now at a whopping 47,873 in the entire country.

The House committee on good government and public accountability is currently investigating the ESP after no less than Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano accused DSWD regional directors were “guilty”of delaying payouts with unnecessary red tape–

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.