CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – People had lined up outside the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office a night before it began releasing distributions on Saturday morning August 20 – two days before the opening of classes.
Thousands of people ended up being sent home by the DSWD empty-handed and frustrated, like in other parts of the country.
But behind the whole mess, the hubbub only underscored the desperation of many Filipinos who stood in line for hours in hopes of receiving financial aid, said Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko “Pimentel III.
Police said some 5,000 people lined up outside the DSWD’s North Mindanao office in downtown Cagayan de Oro in the race for financial aid for students from poor families. Several passed out while waiting in line.
Distributions ranged from P1,000 for elementary school students to P4,000 for college students.
“We were prepared for only 400 people in Cagayan de Oro,” said Roshiel Galia, DSWD spokesman in northern Mindanao.
Galia said social workers could have prepared to give help to more people had it not been for the short notice.
“We’ve had less than a week to prepare” since Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo announced that the department would release education aid on Saturday, she said.
The same thing happened in General Santos, a town in Soccsksargen, where confusion and frustration marred the distribution of DSWD educational financial aid.
Thousands of people from General Santos and Sarangani province flocked to three aid distribution centers set up by the DSWD in the city.
Just like in Cagayan de Oro, many of them spent the night waiting in line and returned home with nothing.
“Life is much harder”
Rowena Alido, who came to seek help for her two children, complained of being roughed up by General Santos welfare officers.
Alido said she was asked to go to Dadiangas South Primary School but found it closed.
When she came back she said she was told it was already the cut off time and she couldn’t be served anymore.
At least two residents of Alabel fainted in the hot sun as they queued and were taken away by an ambulance.
In the town of Koronadal, hundreds of people lined up in the early hours outside a local DSWD office. There, people are jostling and jostling as soon as the office opens.
Galia said the long lines just show how destitute many citizens are and how bad the state of the country’s economy has become.
“They are affected by the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring food and fuel prices. Life is much harder,” she said.
Cagayan de Oro Councilor Joyleen Mercedes “Girlie” Balaba said she was saddened by the outcome of DSWD’s aid package on Saturday, saying it could have been avoided if community monitoring systems had been in place. square.
Balaba, the chairman of the city council’s social welfare committee, said any government assistance should be given to people “in a safe and orderly manner”.
Many saw the crowds at DSWD offices as COVID-19 “super-spreader” events.
Lessons for DSWD, local governments
“It shows the desperation of our people. They will really benefit from any government assistance that will be announced to them. Therefore, DSWD should improve its systems and, at the same time, comply with all COVID-19 protocols in the process,” Pimentel told Rappler.
Pimentel, however, praised DSWD for the “decentralized system so that not only citizens based in Metro Manila are assisted.”
To improve aid distribution, he said, DSWD should avoid free aid distributions by implementing an appointment or calendar system.
“If that’s not possible, it can open windows after the first letter of surnames and dedicate more people to the system,” he added.
Pimentel also called on DSWD to maintain a computerized record of recipients and disbursements to avoid adverse audit results.
Balaba, for his part, said local governments can learn from the results of DSWD’s aid distribution on Saturday.
She cited the case of Cagayan de Oro, where a councilor proposed that the town hall provide financial assistance to first-time job seekers.
Balaba said she expressed her reservations because “we wouldn’t want something like [what took place in the DSWD] happen.”
She said: “Every piece of legislation should be drafted after thorough research analysis and backed by data. The intention is good, but would it justify the consequences? How can we be sure that the Ayuda Will (the aid) be used for the intended purpose? Otherwise, we will waste public funds and it will end up being messy. »
Balaba also said that the government must be very clear about its policy, requirements, conditions and needs before granting financial aid.
“People will always line up for whatever is offered to them for free even if they don’t belong in the category [of indigents]. They will find a fair way to receive the help, and we cannot blame them,” she said. – Rappler.com