SWS Hunger survey shows SAP poorly implemented, observes Infrawatch PH

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The government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) was poorly implemented, says a think tank group on Sunday.

The group, familar on the poverty field, had helped marginalized families file appeals for SAP inclusion.

The poor SAP implementation was validated by the Social Weather Station survey indicating rising hunger during the coronavirus crisis.

“The SWS hunger survey provides government the imperative to rethink its social protection programs as we ease lockdowns around the country. Despite almost all respondents receiving government aid, a 16.7 percent hunger index indicates that the aid did not reach beneficiaries in time to prevent involuntary hunger. This confirms observations in many communities that bureaucratic hurdles had stymied the immediate delivery of emergency assistance to marginalized families. As we anticipate the next waves of outbreak, a thorough impact and process evaluation of social protection programs should be on the agenda.”

This was the observation of Terry Ridon, Infrawatch PH convenor, and former urban poor chief of the Duterte administration.

Disqualified yet qualified

Ridon said the more than fifty SAP appeals his group submitted to DSWD provides an ‘objective random sample’ on the manner of SAP implementation at the national and local levels.

“Many qualified families were disqualified in their communities on the basis of the subjective metrics by local officials, instead of implementing the guidelines of the DSWD. As an example, entire barangays were disqualified by a local government, as these were perceived as ‘middle class barangays.’”

Ridon also said that families were disqualified on the basis of not being voters in the communities where they lived.

“As a result, stranded workers, distressed OFWs and many other vulnerable families were outrightly disqualified. But voting status was never a basis for disqualification based on DSWD guidelines. So why do it?”

Ridon also said that social workers depended on the listing submitted by local officials, without actually verifying whether there were other families left out.

“While it is true that local officials know their constituencies best, but this also allows subjective local sentiments to influence a supposedly objective beneficiary list. One report indicated that due to issues with a purok leader who was making the SAP list, one family did not make the list. Families should not go hungry just because local officials made the subjective decision not to make them beneficiaries.”

Difficult appeals

Ridon said the appeals mechanism has been largely difficult, as it was circuitous and slow to act on appeals.

“While credit should be given on the good work done by DSWD national officials on facilitating our appeals, there is a wide berth for improving the appeals process for vulnerable families.”

Ridon said his group had expected a national or regional level mechanism to resolve appeals submitted by families disqualified at the local level.

“However, the appeals was basically an endorsement mechanism from national to regional and back to local social welfare offices, back to the same local level which rejected the families in the first place.”

Ridon said the endorsement mechanism was very slow. Twenty-four appeals took more than twenty days from submission for the social welfare department to acknowledge receipt and subsequently endorse to the same to regional offices.

“This indicates that the appeals process lack the sufficient staff complement to urgently address all appeals reaching their office. As we ease the lockdown, the social welfare department should look into employing more personnel to focus on the appeals mechanism. Because certainly, twenty days to act on appeals is unacceptable by any measure. Families would have certainly gone hungry if this is the pace at which appeals are addressed.” [Bicol Today]

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