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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.