Chaos at DSWD aid payout

Dozens hurt as unruly crowds mar distribution of ayuda for students

Dozens of people were injured while several others fainted in several distribution sites of the Department of Social Welfare and Development across the country in a crush of students and parents seeking a cash handout ahead of the reopening of schools Saturday.

DESPERATE TIMES. At least 12,000 students went to four field offices in Cagayan Valley region Saturday to line up for the cash assistance to be released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The chaotic scene is replicated in other DSWD offices across the country, including at its Central Office in Quezon City (lowermost photo) where parents and students who did not make the cut-off were seen in a video grab forcibly pushing the gates open. In Zamboanga City (below) a photo released by the Philippine Quick Response System shows people receiving medical attention after getting hurt in a crush for educational cash aid ahead of the reopening of schools. AFP, DSWD Region 2 Office

At the DSWD headquarters in Quezon City, chaos ensued as crowds gathered outside, with some caught on video forcibly opening the gate and pushing security guards, riot police, and DSWD personnel as they tried to enter the office.

In the southern city of Zamboanga, about 5,000 people stood outside a high school where cash was to be given out.

“When they heard the gates were about to open, they rushed forward,” police officer Josen Samsula said. “The driveway slopes downward so what happened was they stumbled and fell on the ground.”

Twenty-nine people were treated in hospital for “minor injuries,” said Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo, who had announced the cash payments in recent days.

“I am sorry and I ask for your patience. I apologize if you were not able to receive cash aid. But we did not say we will give everyone cash aid within today. We are doing what we can to address this. We are recalibrating and adjusting,” Tulfo said.

“Probably next weekend we will need some help. We will bring the assistance down to the municipality level,” he added.

Tulfo said he received instructions from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to “improve the situation” for the payout of cash aid to students under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS).

The DSWD will give out P1,000 for elementary students, P2,000 for high school students, P3,000 for senior high school students, and P4,000 for college students or vocational courses.

He said there can be three beneficiaries per family.

As early as 5 a.m. yesterday, the lines outside the DSWD Central office in Quezon City already reached the Batasan-San Mateo Road.

The queue was halted at 7 a.m. as all slots were already filled up.

Those who were not accommodated were given stubs for the next Saturday-only release on August 27.

Tulfo said the DSWD will sign a memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Interior and Local Government to avoid a repeat of the “uncontrolled” crowd.

“The DSWD social workers and employees will manage the distribution.

Only the payout will be provided in the municipalities and cities, so we would become more synchronized and orderly,” he said.

Tulfo said they are also looking for the possibility of extending the cash assistance program to those people who have not been processed after the Sept. 24 deadline of the Department.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda has renewed his call for a national single window for tax and social benefits after the chaotic distribution of cash aid to students yesterday.

“The solution, structurally, is to simplify our processes, provide for instant validation, and digitalize recording and distribution. That’s how it was done in the experimental Small Business Wage Subsidy during the pandemic. That was the best-practice for the Philippine government so far,” said Salceda, chairperson of the House committee on ways and means.

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