DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian

By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

QUEZON CITY — Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian on Monday (Jan. 29) vowed to look into reports that the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program was being used for political ends as indicated during the Senate hearing last Jan. 23.

Gatchalian said that it was alarming enough that several witnesses from certain provinces told senators that a portion of the AICS they received from the DSWD’s regional field office personnel were being mulcted by persons who have been identified by the witnesses.

“We welcome the initial findings of the committee of Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and the DSWD leadership vows to look into the leads that came out during the January 23 Senate hearing,” he said.

The DSWD Secretary maintained that the Department does not tolerate wrongdoings, especially when it comes to dispensing cash assistance to the poor and vulnerable sectors, who are most in need of social protection.

“We assure our senators and congressmen that the DSWD will take appropriate and legal actions if and when we have found out that there are guilty personnel in the agency,” Gatchalian stressed.

The DSWD Chief said that based on the reported “ayuda scam”, an extensive review of the agency’s implementing regulations for the conduct of its payout is underway.

“This will be done with the intention of discouraging persons who may take advantage of the DSWD’s AICS beneficiaries,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian has already ordered agency personnel to strengthen the Department’s  grievance mechanism in order to report instances of fraud or even intimidation of its beneficiaries and personnel in the field offices.

DSWD Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Romel Lopez, who is also concurrent spokesperson, said that the DSWD will also be conducting a massive information campaign in all payout areas, in addition to revising its payout criteria.

“The purpose of this campaign is to educate the beneficiaries that the payout grants belong solely to them, and that no one is permitted to take a cut or get a percentage after the payout has been made,” Lopez said.