DSWD refutes Pacman allegations: No missing funds

By Christine Cudis

July 4, 2021, 4:28 pm

<p>DSWD Social Amelioration Program <em>(Photo courtesy of DSWD)</em> </p>

DSWD Social Amelioration Program (Photo courtesy of DSWD) 

MANILA – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is willing to face any investigating body and present the necessary evidence as well as other relevant documents to belie the allegations of Senator Manny Pacquiao that there are missing funds from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

DSWD, in a statement Sunday, said regular financial reports are submitted to oversight agencies and to the Office of the President regarding the SAP, which has a budget of PHP199.975 billion under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

"In fact, the agency has attended several Congressional hearings relative to the SAP implementation and has presented all the necessary reports for transparency," the DSWD statement read.

Pacquiao, who was challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte to identify alleged corruption-hit government agencies, named DSWD as among those with irregularities in a media briefing on Saturday, hours before he left for his Los Angeles, California training.

The 42-year-old, eight-division world champion will fight Errol Spence Jr., the undefeated World Boxing Council, and International Boxing Federation welterweight, in Las Vegas on August 22 (Philippine time).

In his livestreamed announcement on Saturday, Pacquiao said it was questionable how Starpay, one of DSWD's financial service providers (FSP), only has 500,000 downloads but SAP was disbursed to 1.8 million beneficiaries.

"All funds provided to FSPs are accounted for and that there are no missing funds. All aid distributed is supported by liquidation reports that can be shared, if necessary. The agency ensures that the processes adopted by FSPs on payouts are in accordance with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas-approved processes and existing government accounting rules and procedures," the DSWD said.

The first tranche of SAP was handled by the Department of the Interior and Local Government while the next one was managed by the DSWD through FSPs.

The FSPs are Robinsons Bank, Unionbank, RCBC, GCash, Paymaya, and Starpay, identified through the technical assistance of the BSP which has the expertise on digitization as well as enabling policies and regulatory environment for financial inclusion and digital payments.

BSP gave primary considerations to the presence of payout partners to ensure ease and ability to cash out by beneficiaries, balanced with other factors such as the presence of business model institutions, historical experience in commercial rollout, and type of cashout points that may contribute to ensuring liquidity or availability of cash.

In April 2021, the DSWD terminated the services of the FSPs to conduct manual payouts for the unserved second tranche beneficiaries.

"The FSPs, including Starpay, liquidated the budget that they received and refunded the amount for the unserved beneficiaries to the DSWD," the DSWD said.

At present, over 17 million low-income families were recorded to have received their first tranche of SAP with more than PHP98 billion amount disbursed.

For the second tranche, 14.88 million families received cash assistance with over PHP89.8 billion disbursed, as of July 2, 2021.

Some payout activities are ongoing and will be completed by the end of this month.

“We have not received any invitation for hearings on the alleged missing fund in SAP or if there will be an investigation. Nevertheless, the DSWD welcomes any investigation to check the transparency of the SAP service,” DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao told the Philippine News Agency on Sunday.

On Friday, Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a radio interview that he advised his famous colleague that "to land a knockout against corruption, make sure all your exposes are backed by solid evidence".

"Our advice to him was to make sure the evidence he has is substantial because if only one item in his exposé turns out to be lacking or baseless, that is what the public will remember," Lacson said, referring to his and Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s meeting with Pacquiao the day before. (PNA)