MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has drawn flak for its disastrous distribution of financial assistance for education, with thousands of underprivileged Filipinos crowding outside the agency’s central and regional offices on Saturday, August 20, to get aid.
DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo has apologized since, and on Wednesday, August 24, signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Interior and Local Government – represented by Secretary Benhur Abalos – to facilitate a more efficient and less messy disbursement of cash aid to vulnerable Filipino families.
Here’s how the government intends to prevent another chaotic assistance rollout:
Aid distribution down to the LGU level
As much as possible, the venue for aid distribution will no longer be outside central and regional offices of DSWD. Instead, regional DSWD officers will coordinate with local government units (LGUs) on the most appropriate location for the financial assistance rollout.
“Our regional directors and satellite office heads will choose a venue and make the suggestion to the mayor, such as a basketball court, for example. The mayor can also suggest a venue,” Tulfo said.
There could also be multiple payout centers for big localities.
“Quezon City is a big city; we may set up four payout centers,” Tulfo added. “Some are also suggesting that the rollout be divided per district.”
The DILG already tasked LGUs to help the DSWD in distributing financial assistance, after the DSWD appealed for help over the weekend.
The League of Provinces of the Philippines also said they are ready to mobilize their personnel to ensure that aid applicants will “never lose sight of the need for them to retain their dignity, by making the process of availment easier and more organized.”
Online registration, no walk-ins
The DSWD said it will not accommodate walk-in applicants, and instead activate a virtual system for registration.
The agency, during the press briefing, did not specify the website for registration, but DSWD’s Facebook page asks interested cash aid applicants to text the agency at 0931-796-0362 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Wait for our text confirmation for the schedule and processing of your assistance,” DSWD wrote on Facebook.
Tulfo said that for Saturday, August 27, they might prioritize first those beneficiaries with surnames starting with the first few letters of the alphabet.
“Maybe we will accommodate first those people whose surnames start with A to F,” Tulfo noted.
Social workers still lead implementer
Abalos emphasized that the financial aid will come from the DSWD, and not local elected officials.
“DSWD will come up with the list, not the governor, the mayor, or the barangay captain,” Abalos said.
Tulfo noted that municipal and city social workers should be the ones screening the applicants and interviewing them to quell fears that the aid distribution will be exploited by politicians for their own gain.
To ensure that they are qualified recipients, they should bring:
- a certificate of enrollment of their children
- a school ID for the current or previous year
Presence of police, barangay tanods
The DILG will deploy cops and village officers to ensure the efficient rollout of aid.
Abalos had said that the cops would also check whether the beneficiaries falling in line are complying with minimum public health standards amid the pandemic.
Taking note of criticisms
Tulfo said he understands the criticisms against the DSWD after the first round of aid rollout.
“This country has a freedom of expression,” he said. “A mistake was made. I would be angry if the rollout went smoothly and there were still criticisms, but if you will be bashed because of the fact that you made a mistake, then you just have to suck it up and move on.”
Under the DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program, vulnerable families with children in school are entitled to receive financial assistance:
- Elementary student: P1,000
- High school student: P2,000
- Senior high school student: P3,000
- College student: P4,000
A family can receive financial assistance for up to three students in the six-week program scheduled every Saturday, from August 20 to September 24.
A total of 24,175 schools returned to five days of face-to-face classes in the Philippines on August 22, after over two years of pandemic-driven distance learning. – Rappler.com
* All quotes in Filipino were translated to English.