OFFICIALS of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 received a tongue-lashing from Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district).

Garcia claimed that the agency politicized the distribution of cash and other aid to victims of various disasters.

She criticized the leadership of DSWD 7 Director Evelyn Macapobre for allegedly blocking the distribution of aid to her constituents for unknown reasons.

The two-term congresswoman and former governor scolded the newly appointed DSWD 7 director during the launching of the second round of surveys for the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), or Listahanan, yesterday afternoon.

Policy changes

Garcia and Reps. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th district), Rodrigo “Bebot” Abellanosa (Cebu City, south district) and Raul del Mar (Cebu City, north district), were supposed to sign a commitment with DSWD 7 to support the implementation of Listahanan.

But instead of expressing her support for the program, Garcia directed her frustration at Macapobre during the activity.

Garcia claimed that since last March, Macapobre has not replied to her text messages and calls regarding questions on the distribution of the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations to barangay health workers in the third district.

She also claimed that Emma Patalinghug, DSWD 7 Protective Service Unit head, reportedly changed the policies for the distribution of the financial aid just as the recipients submitted the requirements.

The change in policies and Macapobre’s alleged snub came three months before last May’s local and national elections.

Garcia said Macapobre and Patalinghug committed “blatant politicking” by preventing the implementation of DSWD’s programs for the poor in favor of the administration.

She also threatened to file charges against the DSWD 7 director before the anti-graft office for allegedly violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

Politicking claims

Salimbangon also criticized DSWD 7, especially for its alleged failure to distribute the controversial Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) to his constituents, particularly in Daanbantayan and in the towns in Bantayan Island.

Salimbangon, who is serving his fourth term in Congress, claimed that many of his constituents have yet to avail themselves of the program even though funds for the ESA had long been turned over to the National Government.

He urged Macapobre and DSWD 7 officials to not contribute to the problem by politicking and to assist them in providing a solution.

While he has no problem with DSWD 7’s current leadership, del Mar urged Macapobre and other DSWD 7 officials to not break cordial relations with elected officials.

Del Mar also reminded Macapobre that the same legislators will be deliberating her programs for the region.

In a separate interview, Macapobre admitted receiving text messages and calls from Garcia but she was only able to respond once.

Macapobre explained that the financial aid for affected sectors in the third district was not released immediately because they still needed supporting documents to avoid being questioned by the Commission on Audit.

She also admitted that new guidelines for the release of the aid were sent to social welfare officers in the third district.

Macapobre apologized to Garcia as she presumed that when the new guidelines were disseminated, the local government units, including their constituents, had been informed.

She said she will look into why the guidelines were not disseminated thoroughly.

On Garcia’s threat to sue, Macapobre said she welcomes it.

“It’s her right if she wants to. But for me, I’ve already apologized several times to her and even told her that I was willing to talk to her even though the Listahan launching was not a proper forum for her to air her grievances. But I have great respect for her and the other congressmen,” she added.