MANILA -- Despite President Duterte's stern warning that he would be unforgiving to local officials who mess with funds intended for indigent families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, some barangay officials of Teachers Village West in Quezon City seemed to have turned a deaf ear and even admitted to allowing their husbands to receive the P8,000 financial aid under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD.)
Their barangay chief executive also admitted in an interview with ABS-CBN News that she was fully aware of what her councilors did as she was the one who gave them the go-ahead even if it meant they would be violating the guidelines.
“Monet,” a SAP coordinator assigned in Teachers Village West, confirmed during the interview that unqualified relatives of some barangay officials were included in the list of SAP beneficiaries.
When she called the attention of a barangay councilor of the irregularity, Monet said the councilor decided to simply to return the cash aid.
"Napakahirap maging frontliner,” Monet said. “Siyempre risky din po sa kalusugan namin, binubuwis namin ang buhay namin para siguraduhin na lahat ng ito'y makakarating doon sa mga taong nangangailangan [pero] sa bandang huli, nakita ko po yung asawa ng kagawad, anak ay mga nakakuha. Tinawagan po ako ng isang kagawad at sinabi po niya sakin na kung pwede ay ibalik nila ang pera."
ABS-CBN News went around the Teachers Village West to validate allegations of nepotism in the distribution of SAP financial aid.
Given the big, mostly affluent and gated houses on every street, one could hardly find a place in the barangay fitting to be called “poorest of the poor,” except for one “depressed area” on Matino St. corner Kalayaan Avenue.
Twelve families living in the compound as informal settlers scavenge food and sell scraps to survive on a daily basis. They told ABS-CBN News that they all received the P8,000 SAP cash aid.
But upon browsing through the list of SAP beneficiaries displayed on the disclosure board of the barangay hall, ABS-CBN News discovered that more than 500 residents were listed as recipients.
Teachers Village West Barangay Captain Ana Liza Rosero admitted to ABS-CBN News that almost 100 residents were disqualified during the pay-out.
"Almost 80 po ang na-disqualify po that time dito sa Claret po. Na-sad nga po ako dahil siyempre, kung ang guidelines ang pagbabasehan natin 'yung poorest of the poor, wala naman po dito," Rosero said.
"Ang ginawa ng barangay, as a barangay captain, inano namin low- income tapos 'yung No Work, No Pay'. Yun po ang inano namin tapos 'yun pong mga senior na alam naman natin na may pension which is mababa naman, kasi nag-gagamot sila, binigyan natin yun sir," she added.
The list revealed several names of the immediate relatives of Councilors Leah Barug, Eva Laforga, Juliet Baloro, and Ma. Ximena.
Brgy. Councilor Leah Barug:
- Nilo Barug - husband
- Letecia Corpuz - mother
- Merly Corpuz
- Heidebel Corpuz
- Leonardo Corpuz
- Jayson Miguel
- Rolando Miguel
- Rosie Miguel
- Jenny Pom
- Lolita Pom
- Nancy Barug
- Wilma Corpuz
- Eufemia Galingana
- Febe Galingana
- Joy Galingana
- Raquel Galingana
- Teresita Galingana
Brgy. Councilor Eva Laforga:
- Henry Laforga - husband
- Mirasol Laforga - daughter
- Anthony Cruz
- Melody Cruz
- Winston Cruz
- Elsa Cruz
Brgy. Councilor Juliet Laboro
- Ricardo Baloro - husband
- Rhene Jesus Baloro - son
- Regina Joy Baloro - daughter
Brgy. Councilor Ma. Ximena Ednacot
Of the four barangay councilors, Barug turned out to have the most number of relatives on the list which included her husband, mother, and relatives of her husband.
Barug said that some of her relatives were qualified to avail of the cash aid because they work as barangay employees and have no other source of income.
"Mga staff po sila sa barangay at 'yung iba, mga walang-wala po. Nasa guidelines po na ang mga staff at BPSO ng barangay, pwede po," Barug said.
"Si Nancy Barug, solo parent po siya. Magkahiwalay kami ng bahay po ni mother," Barug added.
But when asked about why her husband still got included in the list who received the P8,000 cash assistance, Councilor Barug admitted without hesitation that she took advantage of the opportunity, especially since her husband had to stop working as a driver due to the lockdown.
"'Di ba 'tong barangay namin, hindi naman po talagang maraming mahihirap so yun nga, binigyan kami ng slot ni Kap na tig-40 kami sa SAP forms. Dami ko nang pinuntahan pero tinatanggihan. So nung the last day, actually napa fill-up ko yung form sa asawa," she said.
Barug said that her P15,000 monthly salary as a barangay councilor is not enough to make both ends meet for her family.
"Kasi ang sweldo lang naman namin dito is P15,000. Meron din naman kaming dalawang anak. Pinapaaral namin, maliit pa sila. Yung isa, 5 years old, yung isa 12, so pag sinabi kasing low-income, low-income din naman kumbaga yung pamilya namin,” she said.
Councilor Eva Laforga was a bit emotional in explaining why she also got tempted to convince her husband to avail of the SAP cash aid despite being in the barangay payroll.
She said that her husband, Henry, who works as a gatekeeper in the village, had no earnings since the start of the enhanced community quarantine in March.
"Ang income naman namin as kagawad is very low 'di ba so parang ang asawa ko naman talaga, wala talagang sweldo mula nung magstart ng lockdown dito. Eh walang-wala na tayo, baka naman pwede siyang bigyan. Inano ko na bahala na pero alam ko talaga na nagkamali kami dun kasi sa guidelines, bahala na kung maano tayo, i-explain ko na lang," Laforga said.
"Siguro patawarin na lang kami sa ginawa namin na 'di rin naman namin gustong mangyari yun, talagang dun kami nagkamali sa guidelines na yun, parang itinakwil namin yung guidelines pero nagsisisi naman po kami, 'yun kaya humihingi ako ng pasensiya sa ginawa namin na mali talaga, as in," she added.
Laforga said the relatives of her husband deserved to receive the cash assistance because they were struggling, too.
In a statement sent through text, Councilor Juliet Baloro said that her husband Ricardo, who is a PWD (Person with Disability) and owns a sari-sari store, was disapproved on the day of the pay-out after he was found to be a husband of a barangay official.
Balaro said that her son and daughter were entitled to receive the cash aid as they are not anymore living with her.
"Ang asawa ko po ay may tindahan at PWD po siya kaya sinubukan pinalista po siya at DISAPPROVED dahil asawa ko po. 'Yung anak ko si Rhene po at may sariling pamilya na may isang anak, naka-separate po sa amin. Si Regina, may kuwarto na inuupahan," Baloro said.
Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that nepotism is major no-no in the distribution of the SAP financial assistance as clearly stipulated in the Omnibus Guidelines in the Implementation of the Emergency Program of DSWD.
Families of all government employees, whether elected or appointed, are prohibited from availing the cash aid, he said.
"Lahat ng pamilya ng nasa gobyerno, bawal, at maliwanag po doon sa guidelines ng DSWD na kahit sinuman, whether you are a permanent employee or plantilla, casual, contractual, job order, lahat po ng may kinaugnayan sa gobyerno, elected man o appointed man, bawal na makatanggap ang kanilang pamilya ng Social Amelioration Program,” said Malaya, also the spokesman of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
"Since pamilya nila, sila ang nagdidistribute, ang nagkokolekta ng forms sila, so it will be a confict of interest on their part, so maliwanag pong bawal yan," Malaya added.
Based on the guidelines, the following families shall be excluded from receiving the Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) if any of its member/s is/are:
- Elected and appointed government official/s (i.e. permanent, contractual, casual, coterminous) or personnel contracted (under Memorandum of Agreement, Cost Service, Job Order and other similar arrangement/s) in any National Government Agency (NGA), Government-owned and Controlled corporation, Local Government Unit, and GOCCs with original charter.
Lawyer Niño Casimiro, head of the Quezon City Legal Department, said the admission of Councilors Barug and Laforga would definitely not absolve them from any criminal and administrative liabilities.
"Hindi naman ibig sabihin pag umamin ka, wala na pong parusa. Pag napatunayan na nagkaroon ng anomalya, hindi po magdadalawang salita ang ating mayor na parusahan ang dapat na parusahan," he said.
Almost three weeks after receiving the cash aid, Councilors Barug and Laforga decided to let their husbands return the money to the city treasury.
"Kasi nga siyempre andami na ngang lumalabas na issue, kahit na low-income kami, sabi ko, sige. Pero siyempre, alam ko na rin sa sarili ko na mali kaya nag-come up kaming mag-asawa na isauli na lang pero ang pagkakamali is na-fill-apan pa rin yung form," Barug said.
"Siguro po, haharapin na lang po namin talaga kung anuman yung kaso na makukuha namin. We have no choice naman po eh," she said.
Laforga insisted that despite being in dire need of money because of the lockdown, they did not spend the cash aid. She also explained why it took them awhile before finally deciding to return the money.
"Ibinalik naman namin kasi na-realize ko talaga na maling-mali ginawa namin. Nagsisisi kami na ginawa namin yun kaya nga 'di namin nagastos yun eh. Siguro talagang balak din talaga naming isoli yun kasi kung talagang gusto namin, dapat nung time na binigay, inubos na namin yun, 'di ba po?" Laforga said.
"Actually, parang naging busy pa kami that time na yun at saka alam mo yung asawa ko mahiyain din," Laforga added.
Both Malaya and Casimiro said admissions made by Barug and Laforga would not in any way exonerate them from any criminal and administrative liabilities. "Nagkasala po kasi sila. Para mo lang sinabi na nabugbog mo yung kaibigan mo 'di ba tapos magso-sorry ka na lang eh nabugbog mo na siya eh so the harm has been done. In this case, kahit mo sinauli yung pera eh tinanggap mo, so on the record yun. Para po siguro sa kanila, kung sakaling masasampahan sila ng kaso, sa korte na lang sila magpaliwanag at doon sila humingi ng dispensa or kumbaga humingi sila ng some kind of treatment na hindi na sila makukulong o mapa-fine," Malaya said.
"'Pag sa batas kasi, pag nagkamali ka, hindi naman ibig sabihin pag umamin ka, wala na pong parusa but just the same, we will be conducting an investigation," Casimiro said.
Barangay captain's go-ahead
Despite being aware that it would be a clear violation of the SAP guidelines, Barug confessed that she was given a green light by no less than their barangay chief executive.
"Dahil nga matitigas din ang ulo namin eh nanghinayang ako nag ano na sakin si Kap na 'uy 'di puwede yan; hindi Kap kasi low- income naman kami, kaya ko nang anuhin 'to. Sabi niya, sige pero next time, sabi niya sakin, 'wag niyo na ulit uulitin yan," Barug confessed.
Barangay Captain Rosero was quick to admit and justify when asked if she had full knowledge that the husbands of Barug, Laforga and Baloro were included in the list of SAP beneficiaries.
"Sabi ko nga dahil yun nga nakita din namin na medyo low-income sila pero sa guidelines nga eh biglang na ano ako dun eh as Barangay Captain kasi ako ang approving talaga. Siguro sir, sa susunod, hindi ko na papayagan yung mangyaring muli yung ganon po," Rosero said.
Rosero showed ABS-CBN News a copy of her letter to Quezon City Treasurer Edgar Villanueva as proof that the husbands of Barug and Laforga have returned the money to the city treasury. But the reason she gave for returning the money was that they already benefited from another government subsidy, instead of truthfully declaring that the husbands of barangay officials are not allowed to get emergency cash assistance from the SAP.
DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño said that Rosero should also be made liable and accountable for deliberately allowing her barangay councilors to violate the guidelines.
"Kahit na isauli mo pa, nagawa mo na krimen. 'Pag may kaalaman ang punong barangay dito, kung ano ang kaso ng isa, kaso ng lahat," Diño said.
Barangay Councilor Ma. Ximena Ednacot explained how her mother Loida Ednacot, a senior citizen, got qualified for the financial assistance. She said that her mother was initially denied to receive the cash aid but was allowed later on after getting a certification from Barangay Captain Rosero that they do not live in one residence.
"Binigyan ako ni Kapitan, I have the certification. Hindi kami magkasama sa bahay which is totoo. Ang mother ko, nakatira sa 96 Matahimik [St.] kasama niya ang bunso kong kapatid," Ednacot said.
ABS-CBN News proceeded to 96 Matahimik Street to verify Councilor Ednacot's claim about her mother's residence. Mang Onoy, caretaker of the house, confirmed to ABS-CBN News that there is no one named Loida Ednacot residing in the compound.
Mang Onoy further said that his boss had just recently bought the property and he is the only one occupying the house for three to four months already. "Bago lang kasi ito nabili ng amo ko. Ako lang nagbabantay magta-tatlong buwan o apat na buwan na," Mang Onoy said.
Councilor Ednacot also confirmed to ABS-CBN News that her mother Loida is employed in the barangay as member of Lupong Tagapamayapa. "Lupon si appointed, they are qualified," Ednacot said.
But Fe Macale, chief of Quezon City Social Services Development Department, said otherwise. "Pero siya din po ay empleyo sa barangay so malinaw na hindi po siya qualified," Macale said.
"Nakakalungkot at nakakapanghinayang kung ang kanilang binigyan ay hindi po nararapat dahil unang-una, inorient po sila sa tamang kuwalipikasyon," Macale added.
A copy of Loida Ednacot's Social Amelioration Card showed that her address is 96 Matahimik Street and she did not declare her work as Lupon Member of Teachers Village West.
DILG's Malaya said that falsification of the Social Amelioration Card is a violation of the guidelines. "Any material misrepresentation in the SAP form submitted to the DSWD is a violation of the guidelines so mahaharap din po siya sa kasong palsipikasyon kung mapapatunayan na meron siyang mga maling datos," Malaya said.
VACC TO RUN AFTER VIOLATORS
Meantime, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) is set to file criminal and administrative complaints against the following barangay officials:
- Punong Barangay Ana Liza Rosero – for approving or condoning the commission of serious administrative and criminal offenses;
- Kagawad Ximena Ednacot – for endorsing her mother in the list of qualified Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Social Amelioration Program (SAP) beneficiaries;
- Lupon Tagapamayapa member Loida Ednacot – for falsely representing to be a qualified SAP beneficiary;
- Kagawad Lea Barug – for endorsing her husband and relatives in the list of qualified DSWD SAP beneficiaries;
- Kagawad Eva Laforga – for endorsing her husband in the list of qualified DSWD SAP beneficiaries;
- Kagawad Juliet Baloro – for endorsing her husband and relatives in the list of qualified DSWD SAP beneficiaries.
VACC President Arsenio "Boy" Evangelista told ABS-CBN News that a concerned citizen has also reached out to them and informed his organization about the irregularity of cash-aid distribution in Teachers Village West.
"'Yung VACC takes recognition of this case dahil lumapit sa amin at nagbigay siya ng mga vital information regarding sa mga violation sa SAP," Evangelista said.
"Ito pong crime na ito ay we would consider this as heinous. Ito'y isang pag-atake sa kaban ng bayan lalo na 'tong pondo na 'to is to be distributed sa mga indigent, 'yung talagang hirap na hirap na because of this pandemic," Evangelista added.
So far, according to Casimiro, two barangay captains, two barangay councilors, some barangay employees and civilians in Quezon City have been criminally charged for Social Amelioration Program (SAP)-related anomalies.