The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has reminded the public that any person or group looking to solicit donations is required to secure a permit form the DSWD.
"It has come to our attention that amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, various persons and organizations are allegedly conducting unauthorized public solicitation activities," the DSWD said in an advisory posted on Wednesday, April 15, explaining why it issued the reminder.
The department invoked Presidential Decree (PD) 1564, which says soliciting donations is regulated by law.
"The DSWD reiterates that all entities must apply for a solicitation permit with the nearest DSWD office, which has jurisdiction over the area where one wishes to conduct the solicitation activity," the department said.
The DSWD also reminded the public that the permit has a processing fee, and DSWD asked those looking to secure permits to pay online in view of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other parts of the country.
Regional fund drives require a processing fee of P500, while national fund drives have a fee of P1,000, as provided under DSWD Administrative Order No. 170 issued in 2012.
Social welfare offices may also require those holding the donation drives to submit reports on the status of the activities.
PD 1564 was passed in 1978 and amends the Solicitation Permit Law of 1933.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Nathy Cause of the DSWD's Standards Bureau said that payment for the processing fee can follow – what's important is that those conducting donation drives are documented and tracked.
"Ang nangyayari lang ngayon, meron kaming online sa Landbank. Kung talagang hirap mga tao na maka-online, 'yung payment kahit saka na lang ibigay basta within the period ng kanilang solicitation," said Cause.
(Under the current situation, we have online [payment] via Landbank. If people find it difficult to go online, they can defer payment for now, as long as it is given within the period of their solicitation.)
Cause said there are only two documents required for now: the application form and the project proposal. People looking to conduct solicitation activities can submit first a promissory note for their payment for now.
She explained that it fundraisers for donation drivers 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 Cause.
The DSWD said they have a team monitoring groups soliciting donations on social media. When they come across unaccredited donation efforts, Cause said the groups are sent emails to require application.
People looking to secure a permit can apply at firstname.lastname@example.org. Online payments can be coursed through the Bureau of Treasury's Landbank account:
Account name: Bureau of Treasury
Account number: 3402-2516-96
Bayan Muna slammed DSWD for "limiting citizen initatives" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Dagdag pasakit ito sa mga mamamayan na nagkukusang tumulong sa kapwa Pilipinong nagugutom. Nasa gitna tayo ng krisis. 'Wag na natin pahirapan sa burukratikong proseso.... At dapat tayong magpasalamat sa mga kapwa nating nagkukusang tumulong sa abot ng kanilang makakaya," said Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat.
(This is an added burden to citizens who want to help fellow Filipinos who are starving. We are in the midst of a crisis. We should not make it worse with bureaucratic processes.... And we should be thankful to our fellow citizens who wish to help in the best way they can.)
"Ipinapakita lamang ng DSWD ang kawalan ng malasakit sa milyon-milyong Pilipinong nagugutom. Kung hindi maibigay ng gobyerno ang tulong, hayaan na lang sana ang mamamayang magtulungan. Bigyang atensyon na lamang ng DSWD ang agarang pagbigay ng ayuda, imbes na limitahan ang inisyatiba ng mamamayan," Cullamat added.
(The DSWD is only showing a lack of empathy for the millions of Filipinos going hungry. If the government cannot help, they should let the people help each other. The DSWD should channel their attention to quick aid distribution, rather than limiting the initiatives of the citizens.)
Senator Risa Hontiveros also called on the department to cut red tape in terms of donations.
"I recognize na kailangang siguraduhin na walang nananamantala sa panahon ng krisis. Pero sana gawin ng DSWD mas simple ang requirements at walang bayad. Kundi, maraming tulong ang pwedeng matigil. We need to cut red tape ngayong krisis and deliver aid to those who need it ASAP," she said in a tweet.
(I recognize that they have to ensure that no one is taking advantage of the situation at a time of crisis. But I wish the DSWD would simplify the requirements and not ask for fees. If not, many donation initiatives may be halted. We need to cut red tape during this crisis and deliver aid to those who need it ASAP.)
The Office of Civil Defense earlier faced a similar issue, when it was accused of being a chokepoint for donations. It later clarified that direct donations are allowed – provided that they keep an inventory of all relevant items given to national government agencies.
On Thursday, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista disclosed that P68 billion of the P200 billion subsidy has been released to beneficiaries of the emergency subsidy program.
Reports have surfaced of slow aid from the DSWD reaching local governments (LGUs), with LGUs struggling to attend to their constituents in need. (READ: Duterte chaos leaves barangay officials 'helpless' amid lockdown)