The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Sunday that it has distributed at least P300 million in educational assistance to poor students and their families over the last two weekends.
Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo told a radio interview that as of 8 a.m. Sunday, the department had served 66,000 to 68,000 students. In total over two weekends, more than P300 million in assistance has been handed out, he added.
At the same time, Tulfo apologized to teachers for suggesting they might favor certain students if they were tapped to distribute the cash aid.
Several teachers’ groups protested the comment.
On Sunday, Tulfo said he did not mean to demean the integrity of teachers but only observed that some observers might accuse them of favoritism if they had relatives who were students.
The DSWD earlier announced that up to three students per indigent family can receive cash aid worth P1,000 for elementary students, P2,000 for high school, P3,000 for senior high school, and P4,000 for a tertiary student enrolled in a college or technical-vocational school.
Up to 400,000 indigent students are expected to benefit from the educational cash support as P1.5 billion has been earmarked for the program.
The first distribution day for the educational cash aid was marred by confusion and long queues as huge crowds flocked to the DSWD’s main and regional offices.
On Saturday, DSWD spokesperson Assistant Secretary Rommel Lopez said the nationwide distribution of aid went more smoothly, except for isolated incidents in some areas.
The financial assistance will be available in the DSWD central, regional, provincial, and other local offices starting on Aug. 24 and every Saturday until Sept. 24, 2022.
Those who want to receive the cash assistance were advised to register online or email DSWD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The applicants can also visit the DSWD website and social media accounts for other details.
Tulfo attributed the smoother distribution of cash aid to the help of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and local government units (LGUs).
He thanked DILG chief Benhur Abalos and the local executives for their help and the police, mayors, and governors for lending the DSWD their facilities and manpower from their social welfare offices.
Tulfo said he was also grateful to the beneficiaries who patiently waited for their turn.
He acknowledged that there are still several problems that must be ironed out, such as the need for additional payout sites and how to accommodate those who do not have cell phones or access to the internet.
“There are several places that have poor internet connectivity, and that there are some who could not register because they do not have (cell phone) load. DSWD must really have a (contingency) plan for such situations so that we would not be flooded with walk-in registrants,” he said.
On Saturday, Odiongan Mayor Trina Firmalo-Fabic said an estimated 2,000 supposed beneficiaries of cash assistance for students in crisis failed to receive their cash gift from the DSWD.
She said the students who went to the municipal plaza to avail of the educational cash gift were there as early as the night of Aug. 26 as they were only informed of the scheduled distribution in the afternoon of that day.
At daybreak, more people had arrived and jampacked the venue causing a commotion as they jostled to get a slot. Firmalo-Fabic estimated the crowd at 2,000 persons.
“Many had collapsed because of lack of fresh air. We can’t control the crowd as everyone is taking a chance to avail of the EA. It’s so frustrating,” she said.
Students and parents in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, suffered a similar fate.
Students and parents were at Santa Maria Village gymnasium on the eve of the cash distribution only to be informed the following morning that they were ineligible to receive financial assistance because they failed to register online.
The students said they only received the DSWD announcement to register to avail of the cash assistance on the eve of its supposed distribution on Friday, Aug. 26.