MANILA — An anti-corruption and good governance advocate group is planning to file plunder charges against a financial service provider (FSP) allegedly involved in the questionable distribution of the special amelioration program (SAP) amid the pandemic.
Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance-Maharlika secretary-general Edwin Cordevilla said on Tuesday that FLAG-MAHARLIKA is filing appropriate plunder cases against those involved in the SAP 2 distribution of cash assistance to millions of qualified beneficiaries screened by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and undertaken by FSP StarPay.
In a recent Palace online press briefing, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista explained there only have been 500,000 downloads from the application needed to receive online put up by StarPay as against the initial 1.8 million beneficiaries assigned to the FSP.
The social welfare chief further said that the discrepancy in the distribution of cash assistance, as explained to him by StarPay, accordingly happened as StarPay used other “conduits” allegedly affiliated to FSP main provider StarPay.
“Ang ibang benepisyaryo ay nakatanggap ng financial aid sa pamamagitan ng mga conduits na affiliated sa financial service provider of StarPay,” Bautista said.
And these conduits may have been MLhuiller, USSC, among others Bautista said, adding that other beneficiaries may have also received financial aid through conduits affiliated with the embattled FSP.
StarPay has since issued press statements refuting Senator Pacquiao’s claims of massive corruption by saying the initial tranche involved around 1.6 million beneficiaries and not 1.8 million beneficiaries.
But for the FLAG-Maharlika sec-gen (Edwin Cordevilla) StarPay’s press statements only “further supports Senator Manny Pacquiao’s expose and allegations of corruption.”
Cordevilla said: “Let us not focus on the detailed numbers but whether or not there was an anomaly or not, and why an unknown or lesser-known e-wallet FSP was given the preferential treatment to handle the most number of SAP 2 beneficiaries also smacks of corruption.”
Known as the one who bravely filed an impeachment case against SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Cordevilla again cited DSWD’s own press statement released earlier:
“July 2020 – The Department has already pre-funded or transferred funds for the SAP of more than 4.8 million beneficiaries to its bank accounts and mother wallet accounts maintained by its partner FSPs. The number includes 1,286,551 families who will receive their subsidy from GCash; 337,768 from Paymaya; 682,639 from RCBC; 99,745 from Robinsons Bank; 1,890,263 from StarPay; and 537,668 from Unionbank. Some 50,459 will receive their SAP from Landbank of the Philippines.”
“Although these are the initial allotments mentioned, you can already see that StarPay received more beneficiaries compared to the other five (5), shall we say, more established companies,” Cordevilla stressed.
He added that “In fact, if you are to follow the numbers of StarPay, five (5) million beneficiaries serviced plus the unserved 8 billion pesos. Eight (8) billion divided by 6,000 Ayuda you will get the number of beneficiaries of 1,333,333. So StarPay received about 6-7 million of beneficiaries.”
The anti-corruption advocate stressed further that: “If there were 14 million SAP 2 beneficiaries and they (StarPay) received a total of 6-7 million beneficiaries, that is half or almost half to one service provider and a lesser-known FSP one at that.”
“Is StarPay bigger than GCASH, PAYMAYA, Union Bank, RCBC, and Robinsons bank?” Cordevilla said even as he questioned why the government put so much trust in billions of pesos in an unknown company without a track record in the industry.
He also advised the public to have “a quick review in the google store and store and all that you will find are negative comments.”
“And at 6-7 million beneficiaries depending on the SAP amount (for our purposes let’s use 6,000 pesos) will equal 36-42 billion pesos, which is a lot to entrust to one company,” Cordevilla said.
In StarPays press statement they claimed to have a capital of 100M before getting a license. Even at 100M, this is a pittance compared to the 36-42 billion or as Senator Manny Pacquiao claims of 50 billion that was entrusted to the company.
FLAG-MAHARLIKA also raised the issue “which is not being highlighted is the service fee. At 50 pesos x 14 million people that’s 700M. Last year there were several news stories of people complaining about this. 700M is not a joking matter, while businesses and people suffered in the Covid-19 pandemic they made 700M. Yet there are even more online complaints of people being charged more than 50 pesos which is a separate matter altogether.”
“Also would you believe the claim of DSWD and StarPay that of their 6-7 million beneficiaries only 500,000 had a smartphone and internet connectivity? Less than 10% of our country has an interest in or smart cellphone? This is contrary to available data on smartphone usage and internet connectivity,” Cordevilla further stressed.
StarPay started dealing with DSWD in June 2020 and after the initial award of about 1.6 million beneficiaries, they were allocated “above and beyond” the original initial allocation.
In the same press release, StarPay responded that “more than five million beneficiaries have been given cash aid through its platform “in a very short period of time.”
It added that it has already liquidated the funds it received and refunded the amount for unserved beneficiaries to the DSWD, totaling 8.239 billion. (ai/mtvn)