Palace backs probe of CCT

Published by rudy Date posted on January 26, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is supporting a proposal in Congress to investigate the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s reported use of funds from the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to billet Metro Manila street dwellers in a resort in Nasugbu, Batangas during the five-day visit of Pope Francis last week.

Speaking over state-run dzRB radio over the weekend, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Congress can always open the DSWD’s financial books to the public, and that Malacañang will cooperate in the inquiry.

“The government is always open to giving out information being requested and we are ready to cooperate because that is the existing relationship between the executive and other branches of government,” he said in Filipino.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman had admitted that the funds came from the CCT.

In an interview with Amercan newsmagazine TIME, Soliman said the national government had to remove the street children so they would not be vulnerable to the influx of people coming to see the pope.

Reports said the DSWD booked street children and their families from Manila, Pasay City and Parañaque in 70 rooms at the Chateau Royale Resort in Nasugbu for a “family camp.” The rates for each room were reportedly P6,300 daily, but the DSWD managed to get a discounted rate of P4,000.

Gabriela Rep. Emmerenciana de Jesus renewed yesterday her call for a special audit of the P83-billion CCT program after Soliman admitted that the funds were used to round up street children during the visit of Pope Francis.

“The COA (Commission on Audit) should ask where did the DSWD get the funds,” she said.

“How were they spent? If these indeed came from the CCT, then that’s anomalous.”

Speaking over dzBB radio, De Jesus said the CCT was meant for poor families that the DSWD had pre- listed as qualified for state subsidies.

“Why would they hold a briefing in a place that is far from where the families or street children reside?” she asked.

“While the DSWD tries to weave answers, the more they get tangled.”

De Jesus said Gabriela’s chapters nationwide have reported complaints on the CCT’s implementation, ranging from delays by months on the release of subsidies to reduced payments.

It is preposterous for Soliman to claim that the billeting of street children and in a posh resort in Nasugbu simply coincided with the pope’s visit, she added.

The rounding up of hundreds of street children and other “eyesores” will be repeated when the country hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in November, she said.

De Jesus again called on Soliman to resign following successive COA reports on questionable CCT transactions.

She backs a House of Representatives committee on Metro Manila development proposal to conduct an inquiry into reports that the DSWD forcibly herded street children to remove eyesores, she added.

Speaking over state-run PTV-4 and dzRB radio, deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said since 2012, the administration has been bringing street children and their parents to resorts.

“Well, they were not hidden,” she said in Filipino.

“Secretary Soliman had already explained the reason and this not the first time that the DSWD had done this.”

Valte refuted the use of the word “hidden” to describe the excursion, which she said was part of the DSWD’s CCT program.

“It’s not that they’re being hidden,” she said.

“Of course, it’s partly also for the safety of the people who sleep on the center island and in some of the other areas.”

The street children and their families checked out of the resort on Jan. 19, the same day Pope Francis left Manila for Rome.

Out of sight again

Street children and beggars will be kept out of sight in Angeles City’s Balibago commercial district for the duration of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings at nearby Clark Freeport up to Feb. 7.

In a memorandum dated last Jan. 14, barangay chairman Rodelio Mamac asked all bars and clubs within the jurisdiction of Barangay Balibago to donate P100 per day to keep the children and beggars off the streets from Jan. 21 to Feb. 7 during APEC activities in Angeles City.

The memorandum was allegedly based on an agreement between Mamac and the directors of the League of Angeles City Entertainers and Managers (Lacem).

Mamac said the memorandum is in support of a local security plan to prevent street children and beggars from loitering to ensure the uninterrupted passage of all APEC participants, guests and foreign observers.

“The Office of the Mayor, the Office of the Punong Barangay, the Balibago Business Establishments Association (BBEA), the Lacem, and the Philippine National Police will conduct clearing operation of all street children/mendicant/beggars and provide them the necessary safekeeping within the APEC period,” read the memorandum.

The memorandum did not say where the children and beggars will be kept for the duration of the ministerial meetings.

Mamac said the voluntary donations of P100 per day would be solicited from all entertainment establishments and clubs in his barangay “for the rescue and safekeeping” of street children and beggars. –Delon Porcalla, Ding Cervantes, Perseus Echeminada, Paolo Romero, (The Philippine Star)

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