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Dead Covid-19 aid ‘beneficiaries’ bared

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Dead Covid-19 aid ‘beneficiaries’ bared

DECEASED persons, minors and overseas Filipinos were among those on the list by the Department Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as “beneficiaries” of the  financial assistance for people affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed by the national government to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), a lawmaker at the House of Representatives disclosed on Saturday.

“My office received inquiries and reports on questionable beneficiaries,” said PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles in a statement.

Nograles said while “this comes as no surprise, the DSWD and the CoA (Commission on Audit) should look into this.”

Nograles’ disclosure came a day after vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government was now preparing for the “long haul” by utilizing a multipronged approach in its battle to control the pandemic.

Galvez, also chief implementer of the government’s pandemic response, said the decision was reached following a series of consultations with experts, including former Health secretary Manuel Dayrit.

“This preparation includes enabling all pandemic functions, provision of added protection and vaccination, and building resilience through increasing hospital bed capacity,” Galvez said in his speech during a visit to Taguig City’s newly launched mega vaccination hub on Friday.

Documented reports

Copies of the documented reports acquired by The Manila Times showed that in Barangay 44 in Pasay City alone, there were at least six minors and one dead person who were listed as among the cash aid beneficiaries.

In a previous statement, Nograles cited other cases, including a house helper in the same barangay (village) who now lives in Mindanao, and a resident of Cainta, Rizal who currently works in Qatar. He said the “unqualified” recipients were identified through “cross-referencing” with reports.

Nograles asked that the DSWD and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) investigate the matter, pointing out that such cases may indicate that there were thousands more of “unqualified” people on the list. He also stressed that the ₱22.9-billion amelioration fund “must be fully accounted for,” and that “the people who [abuse] it must be punished.”

“Ako nga na congressman, may mga natatanggap akong mga information at puro documented pa. I’m sure may mga information din na dumadating sa kanila, and they should act on these even without any formal complaint (As a congressman, I receive documented information. I’m sure there is also information reaching them, and they should act on this even without any formal recipient),” Nograles said.

“President Duterte made it very clear that they should look into these allegations of misappropriations of the amelioration fund,” he added.

The lawmaker reiterated that government officials found to be deliberately falsifying the list could face charges with the Ombudsman.

“I hope [the] DSWD can defend the listing because Technical Malversation and Malversation of Public Funds is a serious crime that must be reported,” he said.

When sought for comment, DSWD spokesman Irene Dumlao told The Manila Times that the department was still gathering information.

DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya told The Times in a text message that the list of beneficiaries coming from the DSWD was just a reference used by the local government units (LGU) and was “subject to validation by the LGUs because they have final say on the list.”

Malaya also clarified that minors were allowed to receive aid because President Duterte’s memorandum did not distinguish between adults and children.

He said those living abroad or who have moved to the provinces cannot receive aid because it has to be personally received by the beneficiary.

The DILG undersecretary said, however, that a grievance and appeals committee in each LGU was tasked to handle such complaints.

Scaling up response

Galvez said the first component of the multipronged approach entailed the further scaling up of the government’s pandemic response through its Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Recover Strategy.

He said interventions along this line of effort will be carried out by the Department of Health (DoH), DILG, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other line government agencies.

“The main objective is to prepare the mindset of everybody that the virus will still stay for one or two more years and we need to manage and contain the surge of cases until the great majority of our people are vaccinated and protected,” he added.

Galvez said the second component was to provide an added layer of protection to Filipinos by helping them boost their immune systems by providing medicine packages to the public including face masks, vitamins, home care service system and telemedicine following the Peru and India models.

Part of the plan is to continue the aggressive implementation of the nation’s vaccine program to achieve herd immunity at targeted priority areas soonest possible time, Galvez said.

The third component is focused on building the country’s pandemic resilience by increasing the capacity of intensive care units (ICUs) and big emergency rooms and adding more beds for moderate and severe cases in hospitals, and the construction of additional temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, he added.

As of April 12, 655 infrastructure facilities composed of modular hospitals, quarantine and isolation facilities, and offsite dormitories with a total 24,128 bed capacity have been completed and turned over to local government units nationwide.

Galvez said the government would continue to build additional anti-Covid-19 facilities and mobilize human resources throughout the country with the assistance of the AFP, PNP and Philippine Coast Guard.

WITH CHRISTIAN CROW MAGHANOY