Issues and problems with the Social Amelioration Program

So, you haven’t received your financial assistance under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the Philippine Government? Don’t worry, you are not alone. And you may not need to do a Speedtest to learn when will that arrive because probably it won’t — not unless the national government will revisit and revise some of its policies and pronouncements, and all the local government units (LGUs) cooperate.

While it is true that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) transferred the money to the LGUs, a number of LGUs won’t distribute it not because they wanted to have the whole pie but because they will just make their other constituents cry. The reason — not all families will be able to receive the financial assistance — only 22% to 82% depending on the area contrary to the expectations set by President Rodrigo Duterte and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. In fact, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is returning the money because its local officials wanted to avoid chaos and be the prey of the non-beneficiaries.

But, what really is the cause why things went wrong?

  1. Eagerness to calm and please the public. When President Duterte said there was money, he wasn’t joking. There is indeed money. What he failed to account was the total number of population (mind you, we are still using the 2015 census data), the administrative repercussions, and the costs involved. Well, who will go around the block and distribute the money from a backpack?
  2. Miscommunication and claim reinforcement. When the high officials of the land talk, everybody listens — especially when it is the President. Otherwise, there will be no critics, right? But, focusing on the issue, the President’s pronouncements was reinforced when Speaker Cayetano, one of those who passed the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act”, spoke. In simple terms, the President cannot anymore hide in the cloak of jokes so the people believed. Who wouldn’t believe when one is hungry, anyway? And now that they believed, they are exacting accountability. Will the local officials offer their heads to be chopped by the hungry public due to the words of some equally wise men?
  3. Misinterpretation and confusion. Despite the explanations of the DSWD, most have closed their ears and eyes to the reality that there is never enough money to give the 110 million Filipinos. Who (or what) is the DSWD anyway? The President and the House Speaker rules above them and their words are mightier than the sword… err, DSWD’s words. Worst, even the “clarifications” issued later by Speaker Cayetano did no good. Worse, they fueled the fire when the Speaker said that “Lahat ay bibigyan ng form” and this was misinterpreted to mean “lahat ng may form at sumagot sa form ay makakakuha ng amelioration”.
  4. Allocation of beneficiaries. One local official sent me a message and ask, “What do you think should I do when I have 48,000 families but only received 12,000 forms?”I’ve been doing surveys so I teased him, “We’ll that’s a pretty good number for a sampling population. So when are we going to start the survey?” The allocation is but a tip of the problem. the iceberg — the basis of the allocation. According to the DSWD, the basis is the 2015 Listahanan — the database for the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). And we are now in 2020. From 110 million in 2015 and an annual growth rate of 1.4%, the Filipinos could be 109.6 million this year. Some 4Ps beneficiaries could have migrated to at least the middle class population (because we believe that the program is also successful somehow), and a number of the middle class families fell to the poor population given the number of calamities that visited the country. In simple sense, the 2015 data, while still data, could be Jurassic already.
  5. Insufficient risk analysis. The DSWD admitted that the situation is moving fast and failed to conduct an appropriate risk analysis. We should be admire the department for doing a Socratic job and hopefully addressing the issues based on its introspection. Among these issues are the limited number Special Disbursing Officers of the department, skeletal Land Bank of the Philippines branches, and uncooperative LGUs. Imagine a few disbursing officers in DSWD’s central office doing the administrative tasks and transfers to more than 1,600 cities and municipalities. But they did the job and transferred the funds as early as April 3. So from that challenge, we now have the LBP challenge — the limited number of branches open, the limitations of moving cash from one bank to another or from the bank to the ATMS because of the community quarantine, and the government’s patronage for the art of manual cash transfers. Amazing, right? While the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) can spend a questionable P300 M intelligence fund in 2019 as well as maintain the privilege of being allocated with P800 M intelligence fund in 2020, it wasn’t bright enough to convince the national and local governments to shelve the typewriter. Right, Einstein?

Well, uncooperative LGUs will remain uncooperative especially if all the knives and barrels are pointed at them. Just like the BARMM. So if there are no mitigating measures being done by the DSWD and the national government, chances are, you will never receive your P5,000 to P8,000 from the SAP.

But in fairness, the DSWD is doing the best its officials can. In a number of places, the DSWD accompanied LGU personnel in the distribution of the SAP. It has also instituted a number of corrective actions to move forward. These include the creation of a Special Working Group for SAP implementation, establishment of Area Operations Centers for online gathering of reports and redressal of grievances, partnership with private sector and other development partners, and intensification of strategic communication for messaging and building constituencies for SAP.

Hopefully, with these actions, things will be corrected and you find your way happily to the bank.

11 thoughts on “Issues and problems with the Social Amelioration Program”

      1. Is it the DSWD who issues the stubs that are sent back to the barangay?
        Then, would it be possible to check with the DSWD if indeed a family had been issued a stub which was not distributed by the barangay?


      2. What DSWD did was transfer money to LGU based on the quota, then the LGU distributes the money in cash. Technically it should be possible to know who received the money. In fact DSWD reports how much had been distributed and where.


      3. So practically it’s the barangay who lists down families who will receive the money within their quota.
        In our place there was no screening, and mostly those who had work-from-home family members, and have their own businesses received 8K. Many residents, who are more deserving to recepients, are at the barangay hall complaining that they did not even receive stubs, which were inconveniently dropped off by barangay officers to some “bida” person in places far from the address indicated in the stubs. The barangay officers simply tell off these people that they don’t know anything without even checking their list if indeed stubs had been issued. That is, if they do have a list, because they should’ve already checked if they did. It’s not about the money, it’s about how the disappointing system of this barangay has messed up with equal rights.
        I’m wondering if there is any use sending texts and emails to DSWD. I’m wondering how to go about complaining to the LGU, or if we should anyway.
        Actually, I’m wondering why I am even typing this.


      4. Very good observations. I agree wih you to some extent.
        1. There is some control at the DSWD level once they receive the forms. They validate the list using the Listahanan which, unfortunately, is conducted last 2015. If may “mayayaman” na nakalusot just like in our place and in other places reported to me, hindi nagtrabaho ng maigi ang DSWD.

        2. The barangays are mandated to post the list of beneficiaries according to DILG for transparency and public verification/validation as well.

        3. It is not useless to send feedback to DSWD. First, your feedback could point out who’s not doing his/her job. LGU ba yan? DSWD?

        Second, the feedback can also improve the system. I think you’ve heard also of dead people included in the SAP not only the rich


      5. Our barangay definitely did not follow no. 2. Again, how disappointing that these people call themselves public servants when they do not work to serve with genuine concern for the people in the community. They couldn’t care less as long as they themselves have received the 8k.

        I did send texts and email when I saw so many posts of complaints on Facebook. At the end of the day, I think the only good this has done is that I could tell myself that I did what I had to do.

        The DSWD should have at least thought about having some automated reply system so as to acknowledge receipt of texts or emails. At least, because there’s this depressing feeling that our grievances were not received, or if they were, they were just ignored.

        If SAP is part of the Heal as One Program, it’s totally doing the opposite. This is so degrading for people who have not been allowed to work now need to feel like beggars for something that they have the right to receive while rich are using the money to buy dogfood and the bums are splurging it on drugs and gambling.

        Thank you for replying. It really helps that someone understands.
        We are just hopeful that the quarantine will soon end, so we can go back to earning and won’t have to be at the mercy of these people.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. “If SAP is part of the Heal as One Program, it’s totally doing the opposite.” I think that is an excellent way to sum up everything.

        From my end, let me continue raising this issue. If you can send me copies of your complaint, maybe we can send it directly to some officials at the DSWD central office. My email is carizo.jay(at)

        Also, i am with you in prayers that we be released from this quarantine.


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