Since last year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been assisting the families affected by the series of earthquakes that struck large parts of Mindanao. The Province of Cotabato was the worst-affected province by the earthquakes resulting in thousands of displaced families.

With direct instructions from Secretary Rolando Bautista, the agency immediately implemented measures on the ground to effectively ease the effects of these strong tremors that jolted the region since October 29, 2019.

Some of the interventions implemented include the provisions of relief assistance, psychosocial supports affected individuals particularly older persons, children, persons with disabilities, mothers, etc., and the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA). The ESA is a flagship program of the agency that aims to help families return to normal life at the soonest possible time.

Under the ongoing program, qualified beneficiaries with partially-damaged houses will receive the amount P10,000, while those with totally-damaged houses will receive P30,000. Under it, the local government unit (LGU) is tasked with the identification of beneficiaries and completion of all required documents. Before the Department can extend the assistance, the LGU’s Social Welfare and Development Office of the areas hit by manmade or natural calamities provides a clean list of their beneficiaries signed by their local officials. Only after the submission of the clean and final list from the LGUs can the Department conduct the “payout” of beneficiaries.

After the payout, the DSWD’s task is complete. The department is no longer bound by the action of the beneficiaries on how to spend the amounts received. However, to further improve future program implementations, the Department still conducts routine monitoring of the project.

Recently, in the Province of Cotabato DSWD FO XII received disturbing complaints from ESA beneficiaries whose houses were partially damaged. The complaints allege that some personalities connected in the LGUs took between P3,000 to P5,000 from the beneficiaries after receiving the payouts from DSWD FO XII.

The DSWD FO XII condemns to the highest degree this dastardly act of a few corrupt individuals that prey on the victims of natural calamities. Even though these acts are no longer part of DSWD FO XII coverage it cannot turn a blind eye on issues that may tarnish its reputation. DSWD FO XII continues to monitor the situation and is keeping its eye on the resolution of this issue.

Lastly, DSWD FO XII encourages ESA Beneficiaries who may have fallen prey to this anomaly to write and submit a formal complaint to the office.  DSWD FO XII promises to assist and refer the said concern to proper authorities for appropriate legal actions.

CEZARIO JOEL ESPEJO, Regional Director, DSWD-12