Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his support for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Thursday, September 19, at the Senate hearing on the agency’s proposed budget for 2020.
“I am one with DSWD in its vision to free all Filipinos from hunger and poverty, have equal access to opportunities, enabled by a fair, just and peaceful society,” Go said.
“I fully support the DSWD in the fulfillment of its mandate, as I work with them hand-in-hand to extend assistance to our fellow countrymen who are hopeless and helpless,” he added.
The Senator is thankful to the DSWD, particularly for the help that it extends whenever he visits victims of fire and other disasters and for being one of the government agencies that support Malasakit Centers. These centers serve as one-stop shops for ailing Filipinos seeking financial assistance.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa DSWD dahil nakakasama ko po sila sa tuwing bumababa ako sa mga nasunugan at sa mga nasalanta ng sakuna. Isa rin po sila sa mga agencies na nagbibigay ng assistance sa Malasakit Centers,” he said.
Malasakit Centers, which have been opened in 42 locations nationwide to date, was initiated by Go when he was the Special Assistant to the President. President Rodrigo Duterte credits Go for giving him the idea of establishing the centers.
The Senate Committee on Finance, of which Go is the vice chair, approved DSWD’s proposed budget of P158.6 billion, which includes P101.8 billion for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) alone.
The 4Ps is one of DSWD’s programs that Go cited in his statement as beneficial to Filipinos. The other programs are the social pension for indigent senior citizens, the sustainable livelihood program for “poor, vulnerable, and marginalized households and communities,” the supplementary feeding program for children in day care centers and the program against hunger and malnutrition for children in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“They are the testament that our government is performing its mandate to provide for the needs of our countrymen and that the money of the Filipino people is being used for the Filipino,” Go said of the programs.
At the hearing, Go also asked DSWD Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista if the agency is doing something for elderly inmates who have served their sentence and have been freed.
“Meron po ba kayong intervention para sa mga lumalabas na preso, lalo na sa matatanda?” Go asked.
The Senator said he is raising the question in relation to President Duterte’s order to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to prioritize the release of qualified ageing inmates. “May directive po si Pangulo na unahin ang mga due for releases na matatanda.”
Go also expressed his concern about prisoners wanting to go back to prison instead of living outside because no one takes care of them. “Sometimes they opt to go back to prison na lang kasi wala nang mag-aalaga. Sanay na po sila sa community na kanilang nagigisingan po. So, ano pong ginagawa natin? Do we have a home for the aged where they can go to (when freed)?”
Bautista answered that the agency shares the concerns of the President and will look into the matter. “Kaisa po kami ni Presidente para bigyang benepisyo ang mga dating nakakulong at nakalabas na, but apparently dito po sa DSWD, we will assess at titingnan po namin kung paano po tayo makakatulong sa direktiba ng Pangulo.”
The DSWD Secretary added that some inmates benefit from existing programs of the agency. “Other than that, there are some dependents who are beneficiaries of the different programs of DSWD. Ang importante lang sa amin is to identify all of them and at the same time prioritize other benefits para sa kanila.”
Go, for his part, shared the situation of some inmates that he saw when he recently visited the New Bilibid Prison Hospital. “Ang problema, paglabas nila, saan sila pupunta? So we need government intervention for that,” he said.
The Senator also asked for updates on the 4Ps. “Wala po ba tayong backlogs or delays sa releases?” he asked.
DSWD Undersecretary for Operations Aimee Torrefranca answered that the reported delays are on the pension of senior citizens, but the agency is now in control of the situation.
“We have already started the cleansing of the database, so the validation was the reason for the delay, but the DSWD has already conducted daily payouts since end of July up to present to keep up with the delay in the payout for senior citizens,” she said.
“As to 4Ps, it is scheduled from Period 1 to Period 6, and we are already in the period of P3, so it’s on schedule,” she added.
She also said that benefits under 4Ps will be released this month and in November as scheduled.