The Department of Justice has directed all prosecution offices nationwide to give priority to the resolution of complaints filed against barangay officials involved in anomalies in the distribution of cash aid under the government’s social amelioration program.
The DOJ through National Prosecution Service chief Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento made the order after complaints were filed before the DOJ against 23 barangay officials on Monday.
Apart from these complaints, the DOJ official said he expects that more complaints will be filed against erring barangay officials.
In fact, the government is building up 110 cases against village officials allegedly involved in anomalies in the distribution of SAP case assistance to low-income households.
Malcontento said he expects similar cases would be filed before prosecution offices in the provinces.
“(The) cases are all over the country not only here at main (office). I instructed all heads of offices all over the country to set these for preliminary investigation as soon as possible, to monitor (their) progress and report to us,” Malcontento said.
“This would not just be one case. There would be many cases all over the country so it is up to every city prosecutor to schedule the hearings,” he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had already given instructions to prioritize the holding of a preliminary investigation on the criminal charges filed against these suspected erring barangay officials.
“The DOJ is giving priority to the investigation of complaints against barangay and other local government officials for irregularities or fraudulent acts relative to the distribution of SAP cash aid because these cases take on a sinister and disgraceful character, considering that money intended for poor hungry people is unlawfully taken away from them,” Guevarra said, in a text message.
As of May 17, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) SAP monitoring report showed that 97 percent of the P100 billion SAP funds allocated for the first tranche of cash aid had been given to the beneficiaries from 17 regions.
More than 17.3 million beneficiaries have been served.
The Palace on Wednesday said the sell-off of public properties would not be enough to boost funding for the social amelioration program.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte had initially sought to sell one government asset to make sure that all the 23 million low-income households would receive the second tranche of cash aid.
The President, however, learned that the cost of the property was only about P20 billion, Roque said.
“That’s not even enough because we need even P50 billion more if we were to give first and second tranches to the 5 million additional beneficiaries,” he said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel.
Under the national government’s SAP, beneficiaries are entitled to receive monthly emergency subsidies ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 for April and May.
The original number of SAP beneficiaries was 18 million, but it rose to 23 million after Duterte sought to give cash aid to 5 million more low-income families.
The 23 million poor families will receive the first tranche of emergency subsidies.
However, Malacañang earlier disclosed that only 18 million families are qualified to benefit from the implementation of the second phase of the SAP.
The Palace also said the government needs to ask Congress for a P50 billion supplemental budget if it wants to extend financial assistance to all the 23 million SAP beneficiaries.
Roque said Duterte was once “dead serious” about selling state-owned properties to augment the funding for the implementation of the second phase of the SAP.
A legislator on Wednesday urged President Duterte to expand the social amelioration program that is allowable under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law to include areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
“He has the authority to do that. In fact, based on the statements of his spokesman former Congressman Harry Roque, the President wants five million more poor families to be given financial assistance,” said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.
This means that the administration would want a total of 23 million families covered by SAP if there are enough funds, he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo reiterated her appeal to agencies and local government units implementing the government’s social amelioration program to come up with a more orderly way to distribute the cash aid this month.
Castelo said the concerned officials should have learned their lesson from the delivery of the funds in April.
“They should be able to come up with a more organized distribution system that follows physical distancing and other health and quarantine protocols for the protection of the beneficiaries themselves, their families, government personnel distributing the funds, and the public in general,” Castelo said.
Malacañang said Wednesday it expects beneficiaries of the social amelioration program to be less exposed to the risk of COVID-19 following the launch of the automated disbursement of cash aid from the national government.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the electronic transfer of cash aid would be more advantageous to indigent families.
In an interview with the morning show Unang Hirit, Roque said SAP recipients would be protected against Covid-19 since they no longer need to endure long queues just to get their monthly emergency subsidy.
“They can get the cash aid through their ATM without waiting in long queues. That’s better because the problem would get worse if they flock to a designated area just to get the cash aid,” he said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on May 14 launched the web application “ReliefAgad” to hasten the distribution of financial assistance to poor Filipino families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. With PNA