In a Senate hearing regarding the 2024 proposed budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Senator Christopher “Bong” Go raised inquiries to Secretary Rex Gatchalian about the implementation of the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program. Specifically, he raised reports that some qualified beneficiaries who were assessed and validated by DSWD themselves have not received their assistance yet.
The program, initiated during the term of former president Rodrigo Duterte, aims to provide a wide range of assistance, including medical, burial, transportation, education, food, and financial support to indigent families and individuals affected by crises, upon assessment and validation of DSWD.
During his questioning, Go brought to Gatchalian’s attention several complaints lodged at his office, pertaining to students from Quezon; typhoon victims from Cagayan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Negros Occidental, among others; and indigents from other parts of the country who were already deemed qualified for AICS but whose scheduled payouts were reportedly put on hold without clear reason from DSWD.
According to reports received by the Senator, these intended recipients had already been assessed and validated by the DSWD field offices. Despite their dire financial conditions, the scheduled payouts were put on hold.
“Gusto lang nating malaman, sir, pa-check na lang po kung bakit hindi po natuloy. Magkano pa po ba ang pondo ng AICS sa ngayon? ‘Yung kabuuan?” asked Go.
In response, Gatchalian committed that he would check on the list of validated beneficiaries and ask DSWD’s regional offices to take immediate and appropriate action. Gatchalian also confirmed that as of August 31, out of the total budget of P36.818 billion for the program, P16.858 billion remains unspent. This shows that the program has a utilization rate of 54.21%.
Go made a plea to Gatchalian to take immediate action given that most of the funds remain available and unutilized, especially for those affected by natural disasters like Typhoon Egay.
“Ito po ay mga naapektuhan rin po ng bagyong Egay. Baka pwedeng mabalikan n’yo sila, Secretary Rex, dahil umaasa po sila. Karamihan po nito ay biktima ng bagyo, at karamihan ay mahihirap nating kababayan,” Go said.
“Nandiyan naman po ang pondo. Gamitin niyo sana agad para makatulong sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan na humihingi ng tulong sa gobyerno. Huwag na po sanang patagalin pa dahil naghihirap po sila. Kung qualified naman at na-validate ng DSWD mismo, tulungan niyo na po,” he appealed.
Gatchalian emphasized that the department will check the lists and proceed with the payouts that were reportedly put on hold. The Secretary also explained that their limited number of regular employees posed a challenge, especially considering the simultaneous disbursements that needed to be managed.
The senator then inquired about the validation process and how long it takes for individuals to receive assistance.
“On the spot,” replied Gatchalian. “Kapag pumunta po kayo, katulad sa central office o any regional office, kapag pumunta ka doon sa umaga, i-che-check po nila ang inyong identity, authentication, then case study na ng social worker, then payout na po tayo.”
Go then asked Gatchalian whether educational assistance is still consistently being provided to indigent students. The secretary confirmed, stating, “Isa ho ‘yan sa maraming assistance, nasa guidelines po ‘yan. Every day, may mga pumupunta sa iba’t iba naming opisina na humihingi ng educational assistance pero dumaraan po ‘yan sa assessment ng ating mga social workers.”
Towards the end of the hearing, Go reminded DSWD of its moral responsibility to the public. “Ako po ay nakikiusap sa iyo, I am begging you na tulungan po natin ang mahihirap nating mga kababayan.”
Gatchalian responded, assuring that the department will take the necessary steps to address any issue in the implementation of the AICS program and ensure that the intended beneficiaries will not be compromised.
“Nangako siya for the record, nakikinig po ang sambayanang Pilipino,” Go ended, emphasizing that the Filipino public is listening and expects the DSWD to fulfill its commitments.