Opinion

Misusing aid funds

Misusing aid funds

With the enactment of the P165.5-billion Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, greater vigilance is needed in the proper utilization of public funds. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is burying the country in debt, and it will take time before the economy can fully recover from the unprecedented recession.

Proper monitoring of the Bayanihan 2 disbursements gains urgency amid the six-month preventive suspension of an initial 89 barangay captains nationwide. This is in connection with anomalies related to the distribution of the cash aid to poor families under the social amelioration program or SAP, as provided in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The Office of the Ombudsman had ordered the suspension of the 89 barangay captains, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government implemented the order. Of the 89, 12 are from the Ilocos Region, 11 from Metro Manila, 10 from Cagayan Valley, nine each from Bicol and Central Visayas, eight from Western Visayas, seven from Eastern Visayas, and the rest are spread out in other regions.

Among others, the barangay captains reportedly prioritized relatives and political allies in the distribution of the cash aid amounting to P5,000 to P8,000 for 18 million families. Some reportedly demanded “processing fees” while others reduced the amounts and distributed to more households. The government said the barangay captains could eventually be dismissed from the service.

At least 447 individuals are facing criminal charges for graft and violation of the first Bayanihan Act, including 221 local government and barangay officials together with 132 civilian co-conspirators.

Bayanihan 2, meant as an economic stimulus package, will go to industries and businesses hit hard by the COVID pandemic. As in Bayanihan 1, there is the danger that those in charge of the economic recovery funds will engage in favoritism or cronyism in the selection of aid beneficiaries. “Facilitation fees” may be demanded for priority in actual fund releases. The nation has seen how the emergency aid program can be misused. This must be prevented from happening in the case of Bayanihan 2.