Cebu City Council probes Odette financial assistance irregularities

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | June 16,2022 - 07:02 PM
Cebu City Council probes Odette financial assistance irregularities. In photo is the Odette financial aid

Distribution of Odette Financial aid in the barangays. | Photo Courtesy of Cebu City PIO

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Cebu City Council began a probe on the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) over the alleged irregularities of the Odette financial assistance distribution.

In a Citizen’s Hour with the City Council, the DSWS was asked to explain the issues on the distribution following complaints by the barangays starting with how the beneficiaries were selected.

DSWS head, Portia Basmayor, said that the irregularities stemmed from the list submitted by the barangays and the Mayor’s Information and Liaison Office (MILO), which was then checked by DSWS personnel.

Only structure owners were supposed to be listed, but somehow there were duplications and even dead individuals listed as beneficiaries.

Basmayor said that the MILO and barangay health workers (BHW) were responsible for validating the identities of the beneficiaries but due to the sheer volume of beneficiaries, some personalities were not validated.

Still, before and during the roll-out, additional validation was being done for multiple entries, individuals from the same household, and names of already deceased individuals or those who already migrated abroad.

“Ang nagidentify gyod sa atong beneficiaries kay ang barangay, ang MILO, and job orders under the DSWS. Ang process flow ana, gitawagan namo ang barangay, nya nagsubmit sila og lista. Gitawag sad namo ang MILO. Then among gisort into one, among gicleansing. Among makita kinsa tong ngalan nga naa sa barangay ug naa sa MILO nga lista,” said Basmayor.

(The ones who identified the beneficiaries are those from the barangays, MILO, and job orders [job order employees] under the DSWS. The process flow for that is that we will call the barangay, then they will submit the list. We will call MILO. Then we will the lists into one, we will cleanse it. We can see whose names that are in list of the barangay and MILO.)

The head explained that MILO was responsible for validating the identities of the beneficiaries before submission and they were assisted by validating teams from the DSWS main office.

At least eight DSWS teams were sent to lowland barangay clusters for validation and another set of teams from other city departments, such as the City Agriculture Office, helped in the mountain barangays.

Councilor Nestor Archival, minority floor leader, questioned why the DSWS had to get the list from two sources: the barangay and MILO, causing duplication.

The DSWS said that the MILO was directly supervised by the DSWS because they worked under the department, so their validation served as the department’s validation as well.

Councilor Leah Japson pointed out that she was listed as a beneficiary even if her house was not damaged, but her neighbors, whose houses were damaged were not listed.

“Akong mga silingan nga nawagtangan og atop, wala nalista. Ako na nuon nga wala nawagtangan og atop, nalista. At the same time, walay nagphysical nga nianhi sa balay. Ang nakalabad nga nagkinahanglan, wala pa sila kadawat,” said Japson.

(My neighbors, who lost their roofs, were not in the list. I, on the other had, who had not lost my roof, was on the list. At the same time, there was no one, who physically went to my house. What was confusing was that those who really needed the assistance did not receive it.)

The DSWS explained that the MILO or the barangay might not have reached the area for listing and that they would have the area rechecked.

Irregularities

Out of the P979 million budget for the Odette financial aid, Basmayor said that based on the latest record of the City Treasurer’s Office, only P628 million were claimed.

There is around P104 million that were not claimed or were returned by the beneficiaries whose names had double entries in the list.

“Kung naay makita sa lista nga nagdouble, wala na pud na gipaclaim sa disbursing officer,” said Basmayor.

(If we see double entries in the list, the disbursing officer did not release it.)

The DSWS notes that irregularities in the list occurred only for city-released aid while the beneficiaries from the national government were listed separately and with the different validation processes.

So far, no irregularities have been reported for the aid released by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Housing Authority (NHA).

The same cannot be said for the city-released financial assistance as at least three barangays have reported irregularities including Barangays Parian, Buhisan, and Pardo.

It was the complaint of Pardo Barangay Captain Archie Araw-araw that stirred the discussion of the irregularities after he found names of deceased individuals in their list.

Mayor Michael Rama ordered an investigation on the incident and the DSWS is currently conducting its own investigations as well.

Basmayor insisted that the list did come from the barangay since Barangay Pardo provided the DSWS with a digital copy of the list inside a flashdrive.

The DSWS is now facing investigations from the City Legal Office due to the irregularities.

Barangay Buhisan’s village chief, Gremar Barete, has also informed the DSWS of the irregularities such as duplicated names or multiple beneficiaries in one household.

“Amo nang giingnan ang Buhisan nga mosulat sila formally sa amoa aron morequest og investigation kay atoa gyod na icheck sad ang irregularities,” said Basmayor.

(We told Buhisan officials to write us formally so that we can request for an investigation because we really are checking those irregularities.)

NBI, CIDG steps in

During the Citizen’s Hour, Basmayor said that they received a demand letter from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for individuals who were able to receive the aid but were not qualified.

The department head told CDN Digital in a phone interview that there were an unspecified number of individuals in Barangay Parian who received the P5,000 aid, but who were not actually qualified.

“Amo na ni sila gihinay-hinay og adto kay gitagaan man tag letter sa NBI ug CIDG nga dili ni sila qualified,” said Basmayor.

(We have slowly visited them because we were given a letter from NBI and CIDG that they were not qualified.)

She begged off to discuss more details of their investigation in Parian as the NBI and police were already involved.

Still, aside from Parian, Basmayor assured that double entries, deceased individuals, or individuals already living abroad never got the financial aid.

“Wala gyod to nila nakuha, wala sad gyod to narelease sa disbursing officer kay nabantayan man ig distribution,” she added.

(They did not get the money, the disbursing officer did not release it because this could be noticed during the distribution.)

Re-roll

The DSWS is currently looking into re-distributing the financial aid that was returned to the city’s coffers due to the irregularities of the list.

Basmayor told CDN Digital that they could allocate the budget to more families that did not receive the aid but were actually qualified for it.

She said that they would bring this up with the mayor since the money had been allocated for Odette victims anyway.

In his recent statement, Rama said that if the budget was there, it must be distributed to the victims no matter what.

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TAGS: Basmayor, Cebu‬, Cebu City Council, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, Citizens Hour, Department Social Welfare and Services, DSWS, Mayor's Information and Liaison Office, Milo, Odette financial assistance distribution

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