By Rjhay E. Laurea
MANILA — There must be a standing gag order among officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as they all evade answering simple questions or keep mum texting back queries on the alleged cash assistance disbursement under the 2020 and 2021 Social Amelioration Program.
Maharlika TV News (MTVN) tried hard on rainy Wednesday afternoon (21 July 2021) getting several directors to at least comment and provide this reporter with necessary and concise information about the SAP distribution process but to no avail.
And this wasn’t only done on Wednesday.
Prior to this, for the past three weeks, MTVN already tried contacting the Social Marketing Services (SMS) of DSWD but our request for an interview or even a reply to emailed questions remain unanswered until now.
On our last telephone conversation with Ms. Lai Zata, staff of DSWD-SMS OIC director Ms. Irene Dumlao, revealed that she will get in touch with MTVN once the request is granted.
Dumlao is also the agency’s spokesperson over the controversial SAP issue.
Days went by and another weekend passed by but DSWD-SMS haven’t sent any feedback to MTVN.
Earlier this month, MTVN also tried to reach out Finance and Management Services director Mr. Wayne Belizar but according to his staff in Ms. Ding Ananayo, the former was still on sick leave and cannot be disturbed needing ample rest to recover fast.
Mr. Belizar was hospitalized but was already released from confinement about two weeks ago. However, Ananayo said he still needs to rest and recover from his illness.
Still, MTVN tried to reach him through his mobile phone but the director didn’t respond to our text messages.
Annayo then referred us to Social Marketing Services (SMS) which directed us to send a formal communication to Agency Operations Center director Mr. Ferdinand L. Budeng.
Budeng is yet to reply to our queries sent via Email.
Amid the dizzying runaround given us at MTVN, we also called on the attention of Ms. Gemma Gabuya, national program manager of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) but her office referred us back to SMS.
MTVN sent another text message to Ms. Maricel Deloria, assistant bureau director for Operations who also referred us back to SMS.
“Hi! Dir. Irene Dumlao po is the official spokesperson of the DSWD,” Deloria only said.
Questions on dubious “ayuda” distribution mounted after Senator Manny Pacquiao included DSWD among the list of government agencies tainted with graft and corruption.
He claimed in a press conference that a total of P50-billion of SAP funds went to unknown E-wallets of Starpay which were contracted to transfer funds to 1.8 million initial beneficiaries.
However, out of 1.8 million supposed beneficiaries, only 500,000 downloaded the app and around P10-billion of funds are said to be unaccounted for or are missing.
However, Starpay management, in a press statement denied the allegations saying that they already liquidated all the funds and refunded the amount for the unserved beneficiaries to the DSWD.
They said that they were able to serve more than five (5) million beneficiaries as they went above and beyond their original allocation set by the DSWD and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
For its part, the Commission on Audit (CoA) confirmed that the agency is still looking into financial reports of the DSWD with regards to the disbursement of cash assistance of the 2020 Social Amelioration Program.
In a brief interview with Ms. Karen Precio from the Public Information Office of CoA, said that the audit for 2020 accounts of SAP is still on-going while the 2021 accounts are yet to be submitted after a year.
“Kung ‘yung last year po na SAP, ino-audit pa po siya. ‘Yung 2021 po wala pa kasi after a year pa po ‘yun bago gawin ang audit,” Precio explained.