Senator Panfilo Lacson warned Sunday that the government’s P200- billion cash subsidy for the poor would not accomplish its objectives unless the Department of Social Welfare and Development makes adjustments to its list of beneficiaries.
Lacson said there was an obvious disconnect between the national government’s data and the needs and priorities of the rightful recipients of cash aid.
In Metro Manila alone, for example, only 59 percent of the families that should be covered would benefit from disbursements, if the national government figures are compared to the actual data of local government units.
As a starting point, he said, the raw data should come from LGUs and be subject to vetting by national government agencies.
More than the central government, the senator said, LGUs have a better grasp of their constituents’ needs through their community-based surveys that are undertaken periodically.
“We have been receiving numerous complaints of incorrect data that do not tally with the actual number and identities of persons in need on the ground,” Lacson said.
He also said mayors bear the brunt of blame and complaints when their constituents do not get the aid they need.
This problem becomes even more important, given the loss of income brought about by the prolonged lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“What we are implementing now is a top-down mode of listing and distribution of funds to recipient families instead of a bottom-up approach,” he said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also worried about the distribution of cash to the intended beneficiaries.
“Distributing cash aid in one week to 18 million families who do not have ATMs and in the absence of a national database or a national ID is no easy feat,” he said.
“How do you find them? How do you validate them? How do you distribute the cash to each family? How do you avoid duplication?” he asked.
The most logical solution, he said, is to cast a wide net and hope that government will eventually catch the most vulnerable.
He said a partnership between LGUs and the national government could work, with LGUs providing the on-the-ground manpower and knowledge, and the national government doing the validation and distribution.
Over the weekend, the Land Bank of the Philippines said it has started releasing cash grants totaling P16.34 billion to 3.7 -million conditional cash transfer household beneficiaries nationwide so they could buy basic food, medicine and other goods during the lockdown.
Of the P16.34 billion, P6.05 billion has already been credited to their Landbank Cash Cards on Friday, April 3, for 1.19-million beneficiaries covering Metro Manila, the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Regions I, II, III, IV-A, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
LandBank said it would credit P5.26 billion worth of cash grants on Saturday (April 4, ) for 1.29- million beneficiaries in Regions IV-B, V, VI, VII and IX, while the remaining balance of P5.01 -billion cash grants would be released on Sunday (April 5) to 1.23- million beneficiaries in Regions VIII, X, XI, XII, CARAGA and all other regions.
The provision of the cash assistance is part of Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act, which aims to enable the government to better handle the COVID-19 crisis.
The beneficiaries may withdraw from the 2,196 LandBank ATMs available nationwide, and the more than 20,000 ATMs of Bancnet-member banks free of charge.