MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has launched a motu proprio fact-finding investigation into the labor department’s cash-for-work program during the pandemic, saying there were “alleged anomalies” in the program.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires said “the Ombudsman continues to conduct in-depth investigations on alleged anomalies especially those committed in these trying times of the pandemic.”
The Office of thre Ombudsman said it received reports of irregularities in the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) subsidy program Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Workers (TUPAD), including taking out funds from the program meant for workers to give to barangay officials, and collecting processing fees.
TUPAD is a community-based assistance project providing minimum wage jobs for workers for up to 30 days. It was ramped up in 2020 to assist workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Office of the Ombudsman said that in Quezon City, it will look into “the distribution of wages with illegal deductions reportedly funneled to congressional staff members or barangay officials.”
The implementation of the project was halted in Quezon City in September 2021 because beneficiaries complained they did not get their full wages.
The Office of the Ombudsman will also look into the alleged collection of processing fees, and “suspension of the TUPAD program in a district in Palawan.” Similar to Quezon City, DOLE also suspended the program in Palawan’s second district after recipients complained not getting full wages.
A fact-finding investigation is not a criminal probe yet. Once the fact-finding team finds basis for further probe, the criminal preliminary investigation phase will begin, done by another team at the Ombudsman.
Generally, jobs offered by TUPAD vary from social and economic community projects such as repair, maintenance, and/or improvement of public facilities and infrastructure, to agroforestry projects including tree-planting, seedling preparation, and reforestation.
Labor group Nagkaisa Labor Coalition criticized the program for its insufficiency in addressing unemployment issues during the pandemic and demanded DOLE a better public employment program. – Rappler.com
This was written by Rhoanne De Guzman, a Rappler intern. She is a journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.