POLITICOS ‘HIJACK’ CASH PROGRAM

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“We don’t tolerate politicians speaking during the release of cash assistance to our poor beneficiaries,” says Director Rebecca Geamala of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Western Visayas. DSWD Region 6 will no longer involve local government units in the distribution of cash assistance to beneficiaries under the national government’s Unconditional Cash Transfer program. Geamala learned that some politicians would speak during payouts, making it appear they were somehow responsible for the cash assistance. PN PHOTO

ILOILO City – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 6 will no longer involve local government units (LGUs) in the distribution of cash assistance to beneficiaries under the national government’s Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) program. Regional Director Rebecca Geamala learned that some politicians would speak during payouts, making it appear they were somehow responsible for the cash assistance.

The department is apolitical, stressed Geamala.

Politicos who spoke during previous payouts did so without the permission of DSWD’s regional office and “despite repeated reminders by our technical persons,” she clarified.

“Now it will be Landbank of the Philippines, DSWD and faith-based organizations that will be in charge of the payout. We will no longer let LGUs manage the program,” Geamala said.

The UCT program is the tax subsidy provided under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law to cushion the adverse economic effect of the policy on the poor for three years starting 2018.

It is considered to be the biggest tax reform mitigation program under the TRAIN law which seeks to provide 10 million beneficiaries with cash subsidies amounting to P200 a month for 2018 and P300 a month for 2019 and 2020.

DSWD was given the responsibility by Congress to implement the distribution.

“We don’t tolerate politicians speaking during the release of the cash assistance. We are neutral. We are not campaigning for anyone,” said Geamala.

Under the TRAIN law, the households and individuals who will receive the UCT are divided into three main categories:

* 4.4 million are members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)

* 2.6 million are social pension senior citizen beneficiaries

* three million from DSWD’s Listahanan or National Household Targeting System

The LGUs’ social welfare offices would now be tapped only for the dissemination of the payout schedules, said Geamala.

“I have ordered the immediate removal of the tarpaulins of politicians during payouts,” she added.

Geamala warned politicians threatening UCT beneficiaries of being delisted from the program. They would be reported to the Department of Interior and Local Government, she said.

“Only DSWD can delist the names of beneficiaries from our programs, nobody else can,” she stressed.

In November and on Dec. 1 in this city alone, 10,048 beneficiaries were released a total of P24 million in cash assistance at the Jaro gymnasium.

This was not the first time DSWD Region 6 blew its top over politicians hijacking its programs. In October, it told beneficiaries not to believe politicos who threaten to remove them from the government’s 4Ps.

Wala kita political color. For as long as the 4Ps’ conditions are met, beneficiaries will remain in the program,” said Geamala.

Some politicians were making it appear they have a say on who should remain and be removed from the 4Ps, thereby making it a tool to gather support for the upcoming midterm elections.

“That’s not true. Ang aton Pantawid Pamilya program implementation has nothing to do with politics,” said Geamala.

No congressman, mayor or political party can delist or add beneficiaries to the 4Ps, she stressed.

Only DSWD can do that and for such, a “Grievance Redress System” is being followed, said Geamala.

“Meaning to say, wala sang political party nga makasiling nga ‘kon indi kamo magboto sa amon, kakason namon kamo sa listahan,’” the director clarified.

Geamala acknowledged the need for DSWD to intensify its information dissemination campaign on the 4Ps.

Sa Social Pension sa mga tigulang, may fear man sila nga kon indi sila mag-attend sa mga meeting-meeting kakason sila as pensioners. Indi ina matuod,” she stressed.

In fact, all beneficiaries of DSWD’s programs, including the SLP (Sustainable Livelihood Program), supplementary feeding and Kalahi-CIDDS, “nobody can touch them,” said Geamala.

“The beneficiaries, regardless of their political leanings, should not fear losing their monthly grants this election season. They could only lose them if wala sila naga-comply sang mga conditions naton,” she clarified.

These are the conditions that 4Ps household-beneficiaries must fulfill:

* Pregnant women must avail pre- and post-natal care, and be attended during childbirth by a trained professional;

* Parents or guardians must attend the family development sessions, which include topics on responsible parenting, health, and nutrition;

* Children aged 0-5 must receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines;

* Children aged 6-14 must receive deworming pills twice a year; and

* Children-beneficiaries aged 3-18 must enroll in school, and maintain an attendance of at least 85 percent of class days every month.

Geamala said politicos peddling lies about the 4Ps and threatening the beneficiaries may be charged before the Office of the Ombudsman or complained at the Department of Interior and Local Government “kon may mag-witness.”

The DSWD director also said no politician should claim that the 4Ps funds were from them.

The department’s budget comes from the General Appropriations Act, she said./PN

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