Double SAP claimants uncovered in Soccsksargen to face raps

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 14 May) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development – Region 12 (DSWD-12) on Thursday disclosed that several unscrupulous individuals will be charged with estafa and perjury for deliberately receiving twice the social amelioration grant extended by the government to families severely affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Residents in Region 12 affected by the COVID-19 crisis get the cash assistance under the government’s Social Amelioration Program. (Photo from the Facebook page of DSWD-12)

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 director, said that a team tasked to validate the complaints on the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) so far discovered that five persons from the towns of Tupi and Lake Sebu, South Cotabato were able to claim the P5,000 financial assistance two times.

“We have already identified some of the perpetrators, and the photos we have of them receiving cash assistance in two different barangays is undeniable. They even had the audacity to use their own names thinking we will not discover this,” Espejo said in a statement.

He noted that taking advantage of the SAP funds twice is a “clear violation of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.”

The law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 25, 2020 to ease the impact of the lockdown or enhanced community quarantine imposed by authorities to curb the spread of the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus disease.

Espejo said the agency will look into the possible connivance of the double SAP claimants, whom he did not name, with their local officials.

It is quite unbelievable that these persons used their names in two different barangays but it was not flagged, he added.

Espejo said a team tasked starting last week to review the documents submitted by the local government units (LGUs) managed to secure pictures and details of the double claimants.

He said the DSWD-12 used a locally developed application to track the SAP beneficiaries in the region, based on the list of SAP beneficiaries submitted by the LGUs.

Espejo said that at least P3.3 billion in SAP funds, benefiting 660,457 families, have been wired to the different LGUs in Region 12 or Soccsksargen, which straddles the provinces of  South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Kidapawan.

Cotabato City, which voted inclusion to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is included in the SAP distribution of DSWD-12 since the city has yet to be turned over to the new Bangsamoro region.

Espejo also said they have reported some local officials, who were allegedly involved in irregularities in line with the SAP implementation, to the Department of the Interior and Local Government for investigation.

The complaints include splitting the money to cover more recipients, threats to remove the names of their constituents from the list, forcing beneficiaries to buy sacks of rice upon receiving their cash aid, and handpicking of ineligible beneficiaries, he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)