MANILA – The Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) failure to utilize PHP780.71 million worth of financial aid for Filipinos hit by coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic should not be linked to corruption, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.
During his commentary show Counterpoint, Panelo defended the DSWD, saying the funds allotted for the social amelioration program (SAP) were not spent because the roster of qualified beneficiaries was incomplete.
“Iyan pong DSWD, kung meron man diyang unliquidated, simply because ‘yun hong mga bibigyan eh wala doon sa listahan. Kumbaga kulang ang binigay sa kanilang listahan (With regard to the issue concerning DSWD, there are unliquidated funds because qualified beneficiaries are not on the list. That means the list is incomplete),” Panelo said.
Panelo said DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista is even taking immediate actions on concerns over the distribution of cash aid.
He added that public need not worry because the unused funds for SAP would be returned to the National Treasury.
“Talagang merong mga tao na hindi nakasama sa listahan sa anumang dahilan kaya merong perang naiiwan. Eh yun namang mga perang ‘yun, ibabalik naman sa Treasury ‘yun kaya walang problema yun (There are really beneficiaries who are not included in the list, that’s why the funds were not spent. But the unused funds will be returned to the Treasury so there’s no problem with that),” he said.
Panelo said the DSWD should, therefore, not be accused of committing corruption.
The DSWD, he said, would never be engaged in corrupt activities because the Commission on Audit (COA) would run after the agency.
“Kaya alam niyo, merong dahilan. Hindi korapsyon. Iyan ang sasabihin ko sa inyo (There’s a reason [for failure to utilize the funds] but that is not because of corruption),” Panelo said. “Kung hindi man ho maibigay sa inyo ang pera ng DSWD, hindi ho pupuwedeng ibulsa iyan, isasauli iyan kasi nga accountable sila diyan. Hahanapin iyan ng COA (If the DSWD failed to distribute the funds, it would not pocket the money. It would return the money because it will be held accountable. COA will look for that).”
COA, in its 2020 annual audit report, flagged the DSWD over PHP780.71 million in unused financial aid under SAP “due to the inclusion of unqualified beneficiaries in the master list.”
COA said at least 139,300 qualified SAP beneficiaries could have received the cash assistance.
It added that there is a “dire need to properly evaluate targeted beneficiaries through proper coordination and monitoring, and proper and efficient validation that could maximize the number of qualified beneficiaries who could benefit from the SAP.”(PNA)