Chaos mars DSWD dole out

Parents and students seeking cash aid for the resumption of formal classes on Monday, stormed the offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development yesterday triggering pandemonium to erupt.

It required DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo’s assurance that needy families will get what is due them to calm the situation.

On the first day of the distribution of the cash aid for indigent students, Tulfo admitted that the central and field offices of the agency underestimated the deluge of individuals.

To prevent a recurrence of the mayhem, Tulfo said the DSWD will sign a memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Interior and Local Government for help in ensuring an orderly payout.

The MoA should be signed by Monday, Tulfo said in a press briefing.

“Starting next week, local government units will help but DSWD social workers (will still manage the payout),” Tulfo said.

“I am sorry. I apologize if you were not able to receive cash aid. But we did not say we will give everyone cash aid within today,” Tulfo, addressing the disappointed beneficiaries, said in his briefing.

The crowd around the DSWD headquarters and field offices started to build up on Friday night.

Schools have shifted to remote learning since October 2020.

Applicants seeking educational assistance camped outside the central office in Diliman, Quezon City on Friday night while long lines were reported in the agency’s provincial offices.

The queue was halted at 7 a.m. as all slots were already filled up.

“The others were given stubs so they can come back next week. It will just be a waste of time if they continue to line up when the slots are already filled,” Tulfo said.

Financial assistance for indigent students is available for up to three children per family at different scales of P1,000 for elementary students, P2,000 for high school, P3,000 for senior high school, and P4,000 for college and vocational course students.

The country had one of the longest school breaks in the world, without any type of formal classes from March 2020 to October 2020.

An estimated 27 million students have lost more than a year of in-person learning.

Tulfo seeks apology

There was absolute tumult at the Constitution Hills headquarters of the DSWD.

Some, who were eager to avail of the assistance, have tried to push the office gate and climb the fences to get in, while others got rained on along with their documents.

Tulfo, speaking to Malacañang reporters, apologized to the students and parents who failed to receive their educational cash assistance despite standing in long queues for hours.

“I hope you understand and give DSWD a chance,” Tulfo said. “We have funds for this, we are prepared for this.”

The Social Welfare chief went outside the head office to try to pacify the crowd and assured that everyone will be accommodated as long as they were able to line up before the cutoff.

According to individuals who lined up, trouble started when some of those in the queue were given priority. It turned out they were online registrants.

“We didn’t know that you have to be registered first and I don’t know how to register online either. It’s just so annoying because we’ve waited in line for a long time, so when we saw those with QR code entering the gate, that was when the pushing started, according to Aling Merlita Almario, 64 of Tondo, Manila, who accompanied her three grandchildren to get the financial assistance.

“There are people who were shouting “walk-in, walk-in!” yes, we said we will accept walk-ins, but of course, we will accommodate first those who registered online, so what we did was we let some of the walk-ins, those in the tents who were in line, they are the ones who have appointments online,” according to Tulfo.

“Since last night we were here in the queue. The fare from Bulacan to Quezon City was not cheap. I have two grandchildren with me, if we will come back next week, that will mean added costs,” according to Ruben de la Cruz, 58 of Bulacan.

“What happened here at the Central Office, many of the people are from Bulacan, from Caloocan, and other places, our NCR (office) does not have many people to accommodate applicants,” according to the secretary.

The distribution of the cash payouts runs every Saturdays until 24 September 2022.

Gabriela Partylist’s proposal to increase from P4,000 to P10,000 the educational assistance students may get was welcomed by the DSWD.

In response, DSWD spokesperson assistant secretary Romel Lopez said they are considering Gabriela’s proposal, but they must first analyze it.

Tulfo revealed that it was President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who asked him to coordinate with the DILG to make the distribution of the subsidies more orderly.

Tulfo suspended the distribution and vowed that his department would do better next Saturday and in the next five Saturdays by implementing a more organized distribution system with the help of city and municipal officials and the DILG.

In Zamboanga City, a stampede among the waiting crowds had left at least 29 persons injured.

The DSWD will continue to be the lead agency for the distribution of the cash aid, Tulfo said, to avoid pilferage of the funds or favoritism.

Edjen Oliquino and Cherk Balagtas

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