Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian has ordered an investigation on reports that a religious cult is supposedly collecting the cash grant of its members who are beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
The DSWD chief ordered the probe following the privilege speech of Senator Risa Hontiveros Monday (Sept. 18) which detailed the activities of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc., which the senator alleged to be a religious cult in Surigao del Norte.
“We have taken stock of the privilege speech of the good senator, Madame Chair, and we took inventory immediately of how many 4Ps households we have there. But obviously, these are initial numbers because it could not be in just one sitio but in more sitios,” Secretary Gatchalian told senators during the hearing on the DSWD’s proposed P207.37-billion on Wednesday (Sept. 20).
Secretary Gatchalian said that in Sitio Kapihan in the Municipality of Socorro, there are 74 households which are 4Ps beneficiaries. “In that barangay itself, Barangay Siring, we have 503 households,” he said.
“We’ve already spoken about getting our city links and our municipal links to pry into the well-being of these 4Ps beneficiaries in that area,” the DSWD chief said as he promised to provide the Senate with an update on their investigation.
The 4Ps is a human development measure of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children aged 0-18.
Secretary Gatchalian maintained that as a matter of practice in the DSWD, “what is for the beneficiary is for the beneficiary.”
“It’s against the creed of the Department when may tumabas, no matter kung sino man yan (whoever violates, no matter who it is), no government official, no private individual can take what is given directly to the beneficiary,” the DSWD chief told senators during the budget hearing.
Secretary Gatchalian told the senators that the Department will also look into the beneficiaries of Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) in the Caraga Administrative Region (Region 13), with focus on those barangays, sitios that are within the area of influence of the religious cult.
“Whenever we get allegations of AICS misuse, we take it seriously, and even here in the Central Office, in any of our Field Office,” the DSWD chief said, adding that the Department’s Caraga regional director is already looking into the AICS track distribution in the area.
“And then we can do backtracking and our standard investigation tracks also…We will immediately copy furnish the office of the committee as well as the office of the good senator on the findings of the 4Ps as well as the AICS clusters,” Secretary Gatchalian pointed out.
Senators Risa Hontiveros and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, each filed a resolution calling for a Senate investigation into the activities of the alleged religious cult Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc., which is based in Surigao del Norte.