BY NOW, everyone knows that the distribution of the first tranche of the social amelioration program or SAP (let’s refer to this acronym to mean “public financial assistance”) was marred by rampant anomalies and blatant corruption. It was also slow and chaotic all over the country. The ReliefAgad program afterwards, as initiated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), turned out to be a dismal failure as well. It was even worse as thousands of eligible beneficiaries were left empty-handed. The objective of ReliefAgad was supposed to speed up the distribution of the second tranche of the SAP to the intended beneficiaries through electronic cash payout via seven so-called FSPs (Financial Service Providers). However, the lack of adequate information on the ground and poor implementation of this noble project have caused massive confusion to the beneficiaries who mostly have no access to the internet. The sudden and unexpected decision of the DSWD to cut down the original list of beneficiaries has also created more anxiety to those who have yet to receive their financial assistance in the midst of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic.
My personal experience of this inept and I can say, a monumental mismanagement by the DSWD of the SAP in Cebu City, is a case in point. I am not a beneficiary, but I deeply care about the plight of the marginal in society.
There are five eligible beneficiaries I tried to assist to get their SAP. I made representations for them with the DSWD, to no avail. It started sometime in late August when I began sending a series of e-mails to the SAP Grievance Team Field Office 7. What I got were just empty promises and it ended when I went to the office of the DSWD last week, together with two of the said beneficiaries to get a more transparent view of the problem.
There, outside the DSWD building, the beneficiaries were assured of getting their SAP, but until today their promise remains unfulfilled. I followed through by sending the DSWD more e-mails, but I was not answered this time. They were tight-lipped as ever.
These people are hungry, literally. Because of the pandemic, they were deprived of their meager income. I tried to help them personally with my scanty resources, but there is a limit to what I can give. I could not continue giving what I don’t have much myself. The trouble with the DSWD as an agency is that they don’t know how to appease the insecurity and anxiety of the suffering masses. I said to them that the key to enlightenment is to communicate, communicate, and more communication! For instance, where was DSWD 7 Director Rebecca Geamala amidst the clamor of the people deprived of their SAP? Nobody knows her. She is not in the limelight.As a government official, she should practice MBWA–Management By Walking Around.
I have a feeling some government agencies are ganging up and undermining the sincere desire of President Rodrigo Duterte to reach out to the less-fortunate in our God-forsaken country. He is a populist leader, but without the full support and cooperation of his own people, no substantial change in our society is ever possible.