By Julius D. Mariveles and Hannah A. Papasin with DNX Research
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Village officials here, like elsewhere in the country, have been accorded new titles since the government started the distribution of its P6,000-a-month subsidy program.
“Kupitan” is the new word for “kapitan” while “kakawat” is the new term for “kagawad.“
Kapitan is the shortened version of barangay kapitan or village chief while kupitan is a play on the words “kupit” or “to cut,” an insinuation that the kapitan had a cut of the budget while kagawad refers to a village council member.
“Kakawat,” like “tokhang,” is a portmanteau of “kagawad” and “makawat” or thief, again an insinuation that the village official had a cut of the budget.
Since quarantine levels here swung into effect, village officials here have borne the brunt of frontline service at the grassroots — from facing or being the subject of complaints, helping identify beneficiaries of government subsidy to lugging sacks loaded with food packs and delivering these to remote sub-villages in the dead of night.
The maligned kagawads and kapitanes are serving as the backbone of the bureaucracy in a period of crisis.
The passage of the Bayanihan Heal As One Act and the raising of quarantine levels over many parts of the country including this city and province, has focused public attention, as can be observed on social media, on the spread of the COVID virus and government and private aid.
The most controversial, however, is the Social Amelioration Program also known as the Emergency Subsidy Program, as provided for under the Bayanihan Heal As One Act.
Discrepancies in the number of targets and actual funded beneficiaries and the lack of reports from six big barangays, confusion in the selection of potential beneficiaries, and difficulties in the distribution of forms here are among the highlights for the April distribution of the Social Amelioration Program, according to a report of the local DSSD and interviews of village officials conducted by DNX.
DNX has found out that only 17 percent of the population in all barangays were targeted by the DSWD based on the figures in the DSSD report.
The actual beneficiaries were more or less the same, some varying greatly from targets like in Villamonte village that had a target number of 6,382 and an actual funded of only 1,536, a difference of 4,846 or 76 percent.
This (17 percent) is the same percentage used in calculating the total number of beneficiaries in the entire country: 18 million of the “poorest of the poor.”
The World Bank had reported on its website that the poverty rate of the country was 16.6 percent in 2015.
Based on the report by DSSD head Pacit Terro, DNX found out that six big villages have not submitted a list of their actual number of beneficiaries, actual total amount funded, total SAP beneficiaries paid, total amount paid, and total unpaid beneficiaries.
These villages are Alijis, Cabug, Handumanan, Pahanocoy, Tangub and Vista Alegre, which have a total of more than 23,000 target beneficiaries, according to estimates made by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Villages are called barangays in the Philippines, political and geographical subdivisions, that serve as basic governing units.
These are headed by a punong barangay or village chief while a legislative council or sangguniang barangay serves as the legislative arm.
Councilor Lady Gless Gonzales-Pallen said the confusion started with the identification of actual beneficiaries who can avail of the program.
Pallen, who chairs the Liga ng mga Barangay here, said it was not clear at first as to who can avail of the subsidy.
Too, there were confusions as to who were qualified to receive the aid that according to law ranges between P5,000 to P8,000.
Some point to House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano, the law’s principal author, as the source of the confusion when he announced on his Facebook blog that all Filipinos are beneficiaries of the subsidy.
“It was chaos,” one village official told DNX as he described the reaction of people who swarmed the village hall in an urban part of the city after news broke that everyone was qualified.
Despite pronouncements from President Duterte that local officials have nothing to do with the distribution, the view from the ground was different.
What DSSD reports now as “target per barangay” are actually quotas set by the national DSWD, village and city officials told DNX.
They are simply numbers: nameless, faceless, unidentified.
The biggest target in the city is in Mansilingan village with 7,591 and the lowest is Village 24 with 17.
Anthony Jose Loth Alfredo Ayco, who heads Village 15, on the other hand, said the targets simply represent the number of Social Amelioration Cards or forms that will be given to a particular barangay.
In short, barangay officials will be mainly responsible in knowing who the beneficiaries are, from distributing the forms in the puroks or sub-villages, conducting interviews and submitting the forms to the DSSD.
He said from the time the Bayanihan Law was signed to the actual release of the SAP, which started on 17 April here, they only had two weeks to identify the beneficiaries.
Hernani Castor, on the other hand, said it was understandable that village officials had to do these tasks as “it is simply impossible for the DSWD to do so because of lack of personnel.
(Part 1 to be continued tomorrow)