Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has warned the public against unscrupulous individuals who are using the generosity of others to steal donations and contributions intended for relief and recovery efforts to those affected by Taal volcano’s eruption.
De Lima made the statement after she received reports that certain unscrupulous individuals are capitalizing on the miseries of thousands of families, including farmers and fishermen, who were badly hit by the eruption of Taal Volcano.
“It is very heart-warming to learn that people are volunteering for rescue and relief operations being organized to assist the victims of Taal eruption and help them get back on their feet,” she said.
“But let us also exercise some due diligence in welcoming these solicitations and sending our donations to fly-by-night organizations and shadowy individuals who want to profit from such tragedy,” she added.
Netizens have reported of alleged scams of personalities pretending to be affiliated with charities, religious organizations and celebrities claiming that they are gathering funds for evacuees affected by the Taal volcano eruption last Jan. 12.
Similar scams were also reportedly happening outside the country. In Vancouver, Canada, users of social media website Reddit reported that Filipinos “working in two’s or three’s” have been seen soliciting funds in stores and malls in the area.
Recently, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warned against a similar scam using the name of several bishops to solicit donations for a gift to be given to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who was recently appointed to a Vatican post.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, reiterated her call for her Senate colleagues to repeal and replace the 40-year-old solicitation law to penalize these unscrupulous individuals and organizations.
“With your kind indulgence, allow me to renew my call on my colleagues to expedite the passage of Senate Bill No. 851 that would require stringent requirements for solicitation permits and impose stiff penalties for violators,” she said.
The proposed measure aims to institutionalize the issuance of solicitation permit during calamities or disasters, implementing more stringent monitoring and validation of permits, and reportorial requirements for exempt organizations.
“The bill ultimately seeks to safeguard the welfare of the most vulnerable by ensuring that proceeds raised for the benefit of our disadvantaged countrymen will rightfully be translated to programs that will help their causes,” she pointed out.
The lady Senator from Bicol also urged those who are looking for ways to contribute to ongoing relief and humanitarian efforts for Taal evacuees, to donate to reputable charities and organizations.
“I also urge the public to be more vigilant when approached by those who are soliciting funds for charities linked to causes or disasters. It will be safer to send donations, whether it be in cash or in kind, directly to legitimate charities or organizations instead to those claiming to be their intermediaries,” she added.
Under SB 851, individuals or organizations shall be held accountable if they solicit without securing a solicitation permit from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, the City Social Welfare and Development Office, or the Municipal Social Welfare Development Office.
Among the other prohibited acts punishable under the measure also include soliciting beyond the allowed area of coverage as indicated in the approved solicitation permit, using a falsified or tampered permit, and using the solicited funds for purposes other than those indicated in the application form.
Any individual, organization or agency who commits any of the prohibited acts shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than three years or a fine of not less than ₱100,000 but not more than ₱500,000, or both at the discretion of the court.
If the offender is a foreigner, the offender shall, after serving sentence, be immediately deported and barred permanently from entering the country.