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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments confirmed the appointment Rex Gatchalian as the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Tuesday, May 16.
Gatchalian was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in January 2023 after the previous DSWD secretary Erwin Tulfo was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
The CA panel on the DSWD and Department of Defense earlier voted to recommend the confirmation.
Bacolod Representative Greg Gastaya sponsored Gatchalian’s confirmation and was co-sponsored by Senator Loren Legarda.
“I believe Rex has the skills, competence, and the heart for this position,” she said.
According to Secretary Gatchalian, he will put premium to the strengthening of the development programs of the department.
“These development programs are the ones that will break the chain of poverty or the cycle of poverty,” the DSWD chief told the committee earlier on Tuesday.
Senator Imee Marcos asked Gatchalian to address complaints filed at the Ombudsman against him by a housing cooperative, that accused him of interfering in their affairs.
Gatchalian explained that he looked into allegation of bullying in the organization in his capacity as the local chief executive, but denied interfering in their internal affairs.
He also noted that the complaint never made it to court as a case.
Still, his appointment proceeded without any hitches, with most CA members speaking to express support for his appointment.
Gatchalian said he plans to further improve his department’s flagship anti-poverty programs including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) and the Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), among others.
The DSWD is working with a P196 billion budget for 2023, but said that he hopes to increase that in future fiscal years.
Currently, a P21 fund per child enrolled in the DSWD’s Child Development Center (CDC) and Supervised Neighborhood Play and its feeding programs was set aside in the budget.
“We would again push for P27 because this P21 is not enough. Parang ang nangyayari lang, nilagyan natin ng pondo para masabi lang na may feeding program tayo (It seems like what’s happening is that we allocated funds just to say that we have a feeding program),” the DSWD chief pointed out.
He also said hunger and malnutrition will be priorities under his leadership.
“Iyong masabi lang na may feeding program pero hindi naman natin pinondohan nang tama, ay nakalulungkot (It is sad to say that we have a feeding program, but we do not fund it properly),” Gatchalian said.
The DSWD will also be launching a massive project to address childhood stunting with the Department of Health (DOH), the World Bank (WB) and other concerned agencies to implement the Philippine Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Program (PMNP). This project seeks to reduce stunting in targeted localities around the country through nutritional means and other social interventions.
“While DOH takes care of the nutrition-specific program, the DSWD takes care of nutrition sensitivity. Meaning, study shows it is not just about feeding them but also about the overall quality of the environment for the first 1000 days,” he said.
Prior to being appointed DSWD secretary in January 2023, he served two terms in Congress as Valenzuela City’s 1st District representative from 2007 to 2013, then served three terms as mayor from 2013 to 2022.
He ran for Congress again in 2022 and won. – Rappler.com