Bukidnon PSWD chief: AIFCS useless

MALAYBALAY CITY – The Aid to Individuals and Families in Crisis Situations (AIFCS) is useless in helping the poor, Arsenio Alagenio, Bukidnon provincial social welfare and development officer, told the Malaybalay City Council Tuesday.

Alagenio was called to appear at the city council amid problems encountered in the disbursement of the AIFCS fund based on endorsements from elected city government officials. He said the assistance fund is not successful in helping the poor and likened it to the national government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

“If anything, the usefulness of the aid is still in the people receiving the funds,” he said, adding they need to help themselves too, and not rely only on aids to improve their lives.

But Gov. Alex Calingasan said the program is not a livelihood program but just a bridge for emergency assistance.

“We have programs for livelihood but this one is just for people in crisis situation,” he added.

Malaybalay City Mayor Ignacio W. Zubiri, too, defended the assistance fund.

“It is not useless. It is a big help to people in need especially the poor. It is not designed as a livelihood program. It is simply a fund to help people to be able to buy medicines or pay hospital bills,” he said in a text message in reaction to Alagenio’s pronouncement.

The Malaybalay City council decided to task the committee on health and appropriations to study the matter for further discussion.

Alagenio argued that the aid is unable to help the poor in reality because it can only afford to augment a small fraction of their needs. He cited that the poor who benefited from the aid before are even still poor until today.

He said that the poor, through AIFCS, can only avail of about P200 to P300, for needs like surgical operations. Sources in the Capitol said there are amounts of about P1, 000 released to specific needs of the people in crisis.

Alagenio lamented the practice of so-called indigents who make it a habit to avail of the aid, moving from members of the city council to the provincial board members.

“They are given only a small amount, that’s why they keep on coming back. It’s not really a help,” he added.

Alagenio also cited the lack of clear cut policy on who should qualify for the aid.

“Crisis situation has to be defined. (Because the aid) is given to just anyone for just anything,” he told Bukidnon News after his presentation at the city council. “From basketballs to other sports equipment…You name it,” he added.

Alagenio clarified that he has not turned down any request for aid from the provincial board, adding, “they are our bosses.”

But he lamented that there is a need to put in place clear policies to define it. He told the city council that defining the eligibility of the indigents to government aid used to be the turf of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. But after the Local Government Code of 1991 devolution, it has been delegated to the local governments and left at the hands of chief executives, he added.

He noted that local officials wanted to have a hand on who can avail of the aid so that they interact with the recipients.

But a few chief executives retained the responsibility to determine the recipients to the local social welfare and development office, he added.

Alagenio said the PSWDO has the duty to check if the persons who request assistance are indeed indigents. But with the system used locally, it is the politicians who choose who will receive, he added.

Alagenio said in Bukidnon for 2011, a total of about P10 million was allocated for the assistance.

Provo Antipasado, Bukidnon Provincial Administrator, admitted that the aid has been abused by some individuals hence, the need for some guidelines.  He said the aid is practically for medical assistance to the poor. Antipasado admitted that the aid can be likened to the congressional pork barrel, only smaller.

Board member Alfeo Baguio, from southern Bukidnon, sets aside P150, 000 of his P2 million annual special projects fund, the subsidy allotted for provincial board members, of which P100,000 is basically for assistance to constituents who do not have PhilHealth cards, he explained. Philhealth card holders can avail of free medical services from the provincial government-ran hospitals. He said the remaining P50,000 is for other emergency concerns of indigents – like fare for people to be able to travel to attend funeral of a relative or to go home after their trips to attend to concerns in government agencies in other towns.

Like Antipasado, he admitted that he has seen the abuses of some of those who availed of the emergency funds not just twice but many times, repeatedly.
“That is why we record the recipients of my funds and check whether those who request assistance have availed of it many times previously,” he added. (Walter I. Balane)

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