By Wilnard Bacelonia

AYUDA SCAM. Department of Social Welfare and Development Legislative Affairs Undersecretary Aliah Fatima Dimaporo (2nd right) attends on Tuesday (Jan. 23, 2024) an inquiry of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on alleged “ayuda scam” in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro. Dimaporo told senators that the agency never engaged in any fraudulent scheme or be involved in politics. (Screenshot from Senate Youtube channel) 

MANILA – An official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) told senators on Tuesday that the agency never engaged in any fraudulent scheme or be involved in politics.

During an inquiry of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on alleged “ayuda (Assistance) scam” that supposedly happened in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro, DSWD Legislative Affairs Undersecretary Aliah Fatima Dimaporo said the agency will never discriminate anyone in giving financial aid.

“It is not our intention to take sides especially in the local level. Everyone, anyone, whether local official or private individual, may refer but we validate. We validate who is qualified and all qualified beneficiaries are required to meet requirements. There are requirements, lists, documentations, and on the ground there is social worker validations happening,” Dimaporo said.

She said DSWD regional offices are open to accept anyone who would like to request any financial help.

“Because Filipinos kailangan naman talaga ng (really need) financial assistance. We cannot tell them ano yung time na hindi pwede (when they are not allowed to ask),” she said.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa agreed, saying government agencies should not meddle in politics.

“You are a national agency. I know you don’t care about local politics. Ang importante maka-deliver kayo ng basic services sa mga tao na nangangailangan, di ba (The important thing is you deliver your basic services to the people in need)? I agree with you, 100 percent,” dela Rosa said.

However, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson George Garcia confirmed to the panel that they have received a complaint that financial assistance from DSWD were distributed in Davao del Norte during the recent Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) campaign period.

Kung ito po kasi ay hindi DSWD ang nagbigay — pribado, eh vote buying po yun, maliwanag. Kung ito po naman ay public fund, teka po muna, napaka-istrikto nga po ng Section 261 V ng atin pong Omnibus Election Code. So, titingnan po namin ang lahat nang bagay na yan (If this is not from DSWD — private, it is clear that it was vote buying. If this is from public funds, it is strictly prohibited in Section 261 V of our Omnibus Election Code. So, we will see all these things),” Garcia said, telling the panel that the Comelec is already looking into these allegations.

He also said a resolution was issued by the Comelec that prevents any distribution of financial assistance including DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) during BSKE campaign period, saying what they have provided was one of the programs under the Protective Services which also consists of medical assistance, social pension, educational assistance, among others.

In a letter received by dela Rosa from Davao Del Norte Governor Edwin Ignacio Jubahib last year requesting an investigation into the matter, perpetrators forcibly allegedly took PHP4,000 of the PHP5,000 financial assistance given by government agencies to the beneficiaries in the Davao region.

Following pieces of evidence and testimonies of the witnesses, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is convinced that the issue is beyond politics.

“The mission of this committee is to crack down on the group that has taken advantage of the government programs such as the Government Internship Program and (AICS). This committee, with the help of the minority group, will get to the bottom of this,” Pimentel said .

He also stressed the need to pursue the syndicate operating behind the alleged scheme. (PNA)