DSWD says cash aid will continue after Bayanihan Act expires

Michelle Abad

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DSWD says cash aid will continue after Bayanihan Act expires
The emergency subsidy program was created in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which Malacañang says expires on June 25

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) assured Filipinos on Thursday, June 25, that the cash aid distribution for the emergency subsidy program (ESP) will continue even after the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act expires.

The ESP was originally created in the Bayanihan law, which states that 18 million poor and vulnerable families would receive P5,000 to P8,000 for two months to help them cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

After earlier debate in legal opinion among government officials and constitutional experts, Malacañang deemed that the Bayanihan law would expire on June 25. The DSWD took this position, too.

However, Congress has yet to pass the proposed Bayanihan 2 measure. The House version was approved at the committee level, while the Senate passed its version on 2nd reading before adjourning. President Rodrigo Duterte did not certify the measure as urgent.

“Magpapatuloy ang pamamahagi ng ayuda [pagkatapos mawalan ng bisa ang Bayanihan Act]. Para sa departamento, priyoridad namin ang magbigay ng agarang tulong sa ating mga kababayan na kasalukuyang naghihirap sa panahon ng krisis na ito,” said Social Welfare Undersecretary Danilo Pamonag.

(The distribution of cash aid will continue [after the Bayanihan Act expires]. The department’s priority is to give immediate aid to our countrymen who are struggling in this time of crisis.)

1st tranche ‘complete’

Pamonag said the first tranche distribution is complete, with 17.7 million families served. The omnibus guidelines for the ESP implementation, however, list 17.9 million total beneficiaries. (TRACKER: DSWD assistance during coronavirus crisis)

Malacañang’s 11th Bayanihan Act report to Congress disclosed that the DSWD was adjusting the list of remaining beneficiaries and removing names of those who were not qualified. The final number of beneficiaries was not specified in the report.

Despite the Bayanihan law guaranteeing 18 million families aid for two months, the government reduced the number of beneficiaries for the second tranche. There will only be 13.5 million families who will receive two waves of cash aid, mostly coming from areas under enhanced community quarantine.

The second tranche was meant for the month of May, but the agency only began distributing it on June 11. So far, it has given the second tranche to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries, and families who were left out of the program for the first tranche in Benguet, Baguio City, La Union, Pampanga, and Bulacan.

The government constantly promises faster and more efficient aid to the people who need it, especially now as the DSWD has an app called ReliefAgad which would facilitate automated payments. However, Filipinos can still be seen following up on the aid and appealing to be part of the program, in comments on the DSWD’s social media posts.

In Malacañang’s 13th report to Congress on the Bayanihan Act on June 22, the following were disclosed as reasons for delay in the ESP’s implementation:

  • Continuous requests from local government units (LGUs) to increase the number of beneficiaries and download additional funds
  • “Threats, harassment, and insults” that DSWD and LGU personnel receive from constituents
  • Exposure of personnel to COVID-19-positive individuals
  • Postponement of payouts due to increasing number of infected and exposed individuals in the community

The House of Representatives has started a probe into the delays in the ESP’s implementation. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said 4 DSWD regional directors were “guilty” of delaying the payouts with unnecessary red tape. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.