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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ejercito denounces alleged corruption in San Juan ayuda

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SENATOR Joseph Victor “ JV” Ejercito has denounced alleged “ayuda scam” involving the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program, and other social assistance initiatives in San Juan City.

The TUPAD program and similar initiatives were being implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), supposedly to uplift quality of life of the marginalized sector by providing essential government assistance.

In his privilege speech during Tuesday’s plenary session, Ejercito presented two video clips showing certain San Juan local officials allegedly exploiting the system.

However, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora belied allegations that anomalies marred the city government’s distribution of cash aids to the needy residents.

Ejercito charged that the videos indicated that the city officials were taking advantage of transaction fees and kickbacks to divert funds intended for the needy.

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“A victim from Brgy. Balongbato in San Juan City states that he was approached by the staff of a councilor. The victim was given transaction code for Palawan Express. The victim was instructed to claim P7,500-TUPAD,” the senator said.

“But the councilor said only P1000 will go to the victim. The P6,500 will be deducted and set aside for the mayor,” he added.

Testimonies from previous Senate committee hearings revealed a grim picture of widespread corruption in the local governments using social aid initiatives.

Ejercito stressed this is a detestable act because the money that was intended for the poor became seed money of the powerful.

“These aid mechanisms have become instruments for political ambition. Instead of going to beneficiaries, they are used to reward allies and bankroll operators. In other words, they are used for patronage politics,” he said.

Ejercito said the government should focus on generating jobs in the long term, instead of pouring billions into “emergency employment” programs.

On the national level, the lawmaker added that the government can generate jobs by spending on infrastructure—like roads, ports, and railways.

“We should dole out opportunities and not entitlements. We can do that by building better and more infrastructures, which can spread growth to the countryside,” the senator said.

Ejercito urged decisive action to root out corruption from social assistance programs and reclaim their intended purpose of providing genuine support to the vulnerable.

He said the government must also revisit the role of social protection programs as these should function as a safety net, and not a fiscal buffet.

“We have to [tighten] the safeguards, so that beneficiaries will receive what is due. We also need to put timebound exit mechanisms, so that they will not become dependent. And strengthen the connection between welfare and work, so our people can transition from aid to employment,” he said.

Ejercito also emphasized that political involvement should be reduced in the distribution of social aid.

Zamora said information about the purported irregularity has reached his office, but added that his conscience is clear.

The mayor dared the people in Estrada’s video to come to his office and file their complaint.

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