‘Financial aid to Bukidnon’s poor useless’

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/06 September) – The Aid to Individuals and Families in Crisis Situations (AIFCS) provided by the provincial and city government officials has not really helped the poor, Arsenio Alagenio, Bukidnon provincial social welfare and development officer, told the Malaybalay City Council Tuesday.

Alagenio, who was summoned to the city council in relation to problems encountered in the disbursement of the AIFCS fund based on endorsements from elected city officials, likened it to the national government’s conditional cash transfer.

“If anything, the usefulness of the aid is still in the people receiving the funds,” he said, adding they need some self-reliance to improve their lives.

But Malaybalay City mayor Ignacio W. Zubiri defended the assistance fund.

“It is not useless. It is a big help to people in need especially the poor. It is not designed as a livelihood program. It is simply a fund to help people to be able to buy medicines or pay hospital bills,” he said in a text message in reaction to Alagenio’s pronouncement.

Alagenio argued that the aid is unable to help the poor because it can only afford to give a very small amount for their needs. He said the recipients can only avail of P200 to P300 for needs like surgery.

Other sources at the Capitol said that some people in “crisis situations” have received P1,000 from the fund.

Alagenio lamented the practice of so-called indigents who make it a habit to avail of the aid, asking from members of the city council and the provincial board.

“They are given only a small amount, that’s why they keep on coming back. It’s not really a help,” he added.

He cited the lack of clear-cut policies on who should qualify for the aid. “Crisis situation has to be defined because the aid is given to just anyone for just anything, from basketball to other sports equipment, you name it,” he told MindaNews after his presentation at the city council.

He told the city council that defining the eligibility of people for government aid used to be the turf of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. But the Local Government Code of 1991 has devolved this function to the local governments, he added.

Alagenio clarified however that he has not turned down any request for aid from the provincial board, saying, “they are our bosses.”

He noted that local officials wanted to have a hand on who may avail of the aid so that they can interact with the recipients.

But some local chief executives have retained the responsibility to determine the recipients in the local social welfare and development office, he added.

Alagenio said the province has allocated about P10 million for the assistance fund this year.

Provo Antipasado, provincial administrator, admitted that the fund, which is mainly for medical assistance, needs some guidelines because it has been abused by some individuals. He likened the fund to the congressional pork barrel, although it is smaller.

Board member Alfeo Baguio, of the 3rd district, allots P150, 000 of his P2-million annual special projects fund for medical assistance and “other emergency concerns”.

The special projects fund is some sort of a discretionary account.

But like Antipasado, Baguio admitted that some people have repeatedly availed of assistance from the fund.

“That is why we record the recipients of my funds and check whether those who request assistance have availed of it many times previously,” he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)