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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

‘Red tape’ not my style

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“I will defend and fight for each and every DSWD servant all the way to the top if he or she does work properly”

Thousands of our fellow Filipinos in various regions are still reeling from the onslaught of tropical storm Paeng over a week ago; thus we at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continue our relief operations.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that a few lapses may be committed here and there by any individual or group involved in joint relief operations as we are mere humans performing a gargantuan task to help our kababayans during times of widespread calamity.

Most importantly, we do our best to fulfill our mandate to serve the public, specifically to promote the people’s welfare and human condition in the marginalized sector of our nation.

Following our relief operations for Paeng victims, members of our DSWD staff in Noveleta, Cavite were called out by town Mayor Dino Chua for allegedly “giving beneficiaries a hard time” by requiring them to show documents before they could get government assistance.

Apparently, Mayor Chua last October 31 received some complaints that our staff required documents such as identification cards, residence certificates and the notorious “certificate of indigency.”

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Upon the request of our DSWD IVA regional Field Office (CALABARZON), the local government unit (LGU) had provided a list of at least 500 beneficiaries.

As DSWD Secretary, I did not waste time to order an inquiry into the matter by my own staff to fairly address the complaint publicized by no less than the honorable mayor of the said municipality.

To ensure an objective and impartial investigation, I also ordered the immediate transfer of DSWD Regional Field Office IVA Director Barry Chua and Asst. Dir. Mylah Gutierrez to the Office of the Secretary, DSWD central office in Quezon City.

Please note that DSWD personnel involved in relief operations in areas severely affected by the storm worked continuously through the Undas weekend and did not take a break to observe All Saints Day/All Souls Day with their families.

After an honest and fair probe into Mayor Chua’s complaint, it turned out the at least 300 of the 500 beneficiaries that received DSWD assistance did not actually present supporting documents, such as IDs, proof of residence and the abominable certificate of indigency.

With all due respect, the Noveleta town’s chief executive should have looked deeper into the allegations against the regional DSWD social workers before blabbering about “red-tape” publicly.

When I assumed as DSWD Secretary last July, I ordered our Standards and Capacity division, together with the Policy and Plans office, to remove unwanted requirements such as the residency and indigency certificates, which have been the root cause of the delays in the delivery of much needed assistance to our beneficiaries in the previous years.

I have said before that securing a Certificate of Indigency is simply stupid because, in most cases, the barangay officials do not actually know the real financial situation of every resident or household in the barangay.

Whoever conceptualized this certificate of indigency or “diploma of poverty” was out of his mind, especially amid the economic devastation of COVID pandemic.

Upon my instruction, any valid ID presented by calamity victims will be enough for them to receive the much-needed food and cash assistance.

If the beneficiary could not provide any ID because of the urgency to evacuate his home or he simply misplaced it, being in the LGU or barangay list of beneficiaries will suffice.

Just like how it’s done at the Comelec, a relative or a neighbor with an ID can also attest, through a written note, stating one is a resident in the affected area.

We know that all agencies are always under the watchful eyes of the Commission on Audit (COA), especially our agency which has the fifth largest budget allocation of all executive departments.

In conducting a fair and impartial inquiry into the incident in Noveleta, Cavite, we gathered the statements of people on the ground.

The report submitted to me also showed that our staff in the payout site even went further, asking the barangay officials if they could verify whether the persons claiming to be beneficiaries were their residents.

Unfortunately, even the local officials could not attest whether those in their list were indeed residents of the area but, obviously, those people needed the food and cash aid.

I have informed Mayor Chua of the result of our investigation that found no fault or mistakes on the part of our Region 4A officials and staff.

They, in fact, did a good job in Noveleta.

I have also directed Director Chua and Asst. Dir. Guitterez to report back to their respective posts on Monday.

I will defend and fight for each and every DSWD servant all the way to the top if he or she does work properly.

Our mandate is clear and simple: Alleviate the suffering of the poor, the needy, the elderly, the vulnerable and the marginalized members of our country, especially during crisis situations.

However, make no mistake, I will not condone those members of our agency who treat our clients with disrespect, abuse their position, or get involved in corruption… in which case I guarantee you I will be “harsh and chilling.”

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