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NDFP endorses Mariano, Taguiwalo and Lopez confirmation

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) endorsed the confirmation of three Rodrigo Duterte cabinet secretaries a few days before their final Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing by Congress.

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they look forward to continue working with the three officials in the framework of peace negotiations and achieving meaningful reforms to benefit the Filipino people.

“The (NDFP) Negotiating Panel views in very positive terms the presence of DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary Gina Lopez in the Duterte cabinet,” Agcaoili said.

“Their inclusion bodes well for the entire peace process as they would be in a position to help push much-needed socio-economic reforms,” he added.

Mariano and Taguiwalo were NDFP nominees to the Duterte cabinet.

Mariano, Taguiwalo and Lopez have all been previously bypassed by the CA and will get their final chance at confirmation at the Senate on May 3, Wednesday.

The NDFP said Mariano and Taguiwalo will play an important role in implementing a program of free land distribution for poor peasants and in implementing expanded social services for the people, respectively.

Lopez on the other hand has earned the underground group’s admiration for her strong stance against destructive mining.

She also recently expressed willingness to work with the New People’s Army in protecting the environment, generating eco-friendly livelihood in mining affected areas and attending the formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

“They will no doubt be helpful in implementing a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that may be agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP,” Agcaoili said of the three.

The NDFP likewise warned the officials’ removal from office “by reactionary interests” will run counter to the people’s long-standing desire for reforms in government.

Meanwhile, activist groups launched a social media campaign since yesterday calling for a rally at the Senate on May 3 in support of the three secretaries.

“There is an urgent need to show broad support for the progressives in the Duterte cabinet and thwart plans by the CA to confirm only those who wish to uphold “business as usual” politics. It is not every day that we have cabinet officials who truly work for the interests of the people and defy well-entrenched elite interests,” the online appeal said.

“Let us amplify the call to confirm Judy, Ka Paeng and Gina. Join us also in the mobilization and gallery trooping on May 3, 9am at the Senate,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Taguiwalo admits ‘tolerating’ Kadamay members, poor citizens

FOLLOWING accusations the Department of Social Welfare and Development is “tolerating” Kadamay members who occupied vacant housing units in Bulacan province by giving them assistance, Secretary Judy Taguiwalo called a press conference last Friday.

Taguiwalo tried presenting and discussing other DSWD programs but majority of journalists present were focused on the agency’s distribution of food packs in Pandi, Bulacan last week and on accusations the agency is giving special treatment to the “occupiers.”

Taguiwalo said all of DSWD’s programs are for the poor.  She said the agency is always ready to give help to those who ask, especially the poor.
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Manobos receive threat after peace talks termination

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon—Instead of being given rice, hungry Tigwahanon Manobos have been threatened with massacre should they push through with their planned camp out in front of San Fernando, Bukidnon’s town hall.

“Huwag mong gawin sa akin iyan.  Alam mo namang wala nang peace talks.  Baka ma-massacre pa kayo,” San Fernando Mayor Levi Edma Sr. reportedly told the complaining Lumad. (Do not do that to me.  You know the peace talks have been terminated.  You might get massacred.)

Tigwahanon Manobo tribal chieftain Jimboy Mandagit said they met Edma last February 8 at the latter’s office to inquire about the food assistance sent them by the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) last September.

Mandagit said they have been hungry since they returned to Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Cawayan, San Fernando from their evacuation camp in Malaybalay City last December 12.

Mandagit and his tribe evacuated to the capital grounds last July 29 after a traditional wedding ceremony in their community was attacked by the paramilitary New Indigenous People’s Army (NIPAr) led by the fugitive Alde “Butsoy” Salusad killing a pregnant woman.

Who are Datu Jimboy Mandagit and Butsoy Salusad?

“The rice given us when we returned to our community has run out and we are really hard up.  We need three more months before we could harvest what we planted since we returned,” Mandagit said.

Of the more than 200 sacks of rice and other food items sent to them by DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Edma only gave them 37 sacks of rice and distributed the rest to San Fernando’s 24 barangays, the chieftain said.

Mayor Edma reportedly refused to give them more rice unless the Manobos could present a signed authorization from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mandagit said the mayor instead gave 52 families the sum of PhP14,000.00 for them to buy equipment to clear their once-abandoned farms.

“I told the mayor that what we need is the more than 200 sacks of rice and other food items sent for us by secretary Taguiwalo,” Mandagit said.

When Mandagit said they might set up camp in front of the mayor’s office to convince him to give them the rice, the mayor then reportedly issued the threat.

“When he mentioned the massacre, I felt he was threatening us with another attack by Butchoy’s NIPAr,” Mandagit said.

“I was angry at the mayor’s heartlessness.  We only wanted to show him how desperate we are so that if we die of hunger in front of the municipal hall, at least he would know,” Mandagit said.

Mayor Edma was unavailable for comment as he was visiting the town’s rural health unit, his office assistant told Kodao.

Meanwhile, Taguiwalo said he would first inquire with DSWD’s Region 10 office before issuing a statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joint Statement on peace talks

Taguiwalo’s MC9 and the fight against lawmakers’ pork barrel

A special report by Abril Layad B. Ayroso

 

“IT took eight months,” senior citizen Constancio Favor said of his attempts to get benefits from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through his district congressman.

“I was only asking for medicine. I had to return to the office of Quezon City Third District Rep. Jorge Banal many times to complete the requirements for a guarantee letter,” Favor said.

When he was finally given an endorsement, the DSWD under then Secretary Corazon Soliman made him undergo a completely different process from the one he went through with Banal’s office.

Favor was among the tens thousands of poor citizens who were told to secure endorsements from their representative before the DSWD under previous secretaries attended to their requests.

When new DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo learned of their complaints she immediately sought to stop the practice through her Memorandum Circular No. 9 issued last August 6.  Among others, MC9 ordered the entire agency to act on requests from intended beneficiaries even without a letter from lawmakers. The circular also reminded DSWD employees that so-called guarantee letters from congressmen is not a requisite in the identification of beneficiaries.

Some lawmakers, thinking the circular was an attempt to disregard them, reacted strongly against it.

Well-attended budget hearing

Sixty lawmakers lined up to grill Taguiwalo at the two DSWD budget hearings of the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives earlier this month.  Many of them asked Taguiwalo about MC9, saying it prevents them from helping the poor in their respective districts through DSWD services.

At the first hearing last September 1, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin claimed that congressmen were the first people that their constituents seek help from and that MC9 implies that their guarantee letters were in violation of the Supreme Court ruling against pork barrel.

Negros Oriental Representative Arnulfo Teves challenged Taguiwalo whether it was the DSWD or the lawmakers who know the poor’s plight better.

House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas for his part threatened DSWD and its proposed budget.

“We are not asking money from you. You are asking money from Congress. No budget can be spent on your programs without the (Congress) granting it,” Fariñas said.

Other members of the committee suggested to have DSWD’s proposed 2017 budget drastically reduced from Php130 billion to Php500 million — good for only one month of its employees’ salaries.

Taguiwalo for her part repeatedly explained that MC9 does not prevent congressmen from issuing guarantee letters to poor constituents who seek services from the DSWD.  She said MC9 only clarifies that a guarantee letter is not a prerequisite to access to DSWD services.

“We have regional offices that can coordinate with you with the referrals. But there are people who have similar needs but do not have access to your referrals. We want to serve them also,” Taguiwalo said.

At the second hearing last September 13, Taguiwalo again clarified that congressmen may still make referrals to DSWD.  She said that she believes that these referrals should not be treated as instant passes to benefits.  She further said that MC9 is in compliance with Commission on Audit guidelines that executive branch agencies, like the DSWD, are the only authorities in identifying beneficiaries of government projects.

“MC9 was not aimed at relegating to the sidelines the prerogatives of the members of this (Congress) body to give referral letters to their indigent constituents who seek to avail of DSWD programs. Nor was it intended to shut the doors of DSWD cooperation with legislators, government officials, or private individuals. It was, however, aimed at democratizing access to services,” she said.

Taguiwalo’s circular received popular support from the government’s social service front liners.

Reform measure

The Social Welfare Association of Employees in the Philippines (SWEAP), the DSWD rank and file employees union defended what it called Taguiwalo’s “efforts for reforms towards better public service.”

In a statement, the group said that the memo “aims at preserving the dignity of social work by ensuring that key processes in program implementation are done by the diligent workers of the Department.”

SWEAP national president Manuel Baclagon called on the congressmen to stop the politicking, as they saw no reason for the lawmakers to react negatively to the memorandum.

“In principle, this MC is a policy aimed towards ensuring an efficient, fair and transparent provision of services to the needy,” Baclagon said.

Baclagon also emphasized that not all poor people can get endorsement letters from their respective congressmen.

“Secretary Judy is focused on ensuring that the programs and services of DSWD are indeed equally provided and made available to the needy. She wants those who are in need to have equal access to programs and services with or without a referral letter from politicians or government officials,” he added in response to statements by several of the congressmen.

Taguiwalo’s MC9 also received support from outside her agency.

Activists say that lawmakers' insistence on dictating the flow of DSWD services is a continuation of the unlawful 'pork barrel' system. (Photo by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pork Barrel. Activists say that the lawmakers’ insistence on dictating on how the DSWD delivers services is a continuation of the unlawful ‘pork barrel’ system. (Photo above and featured image by Raymund B. Villanueva)

“Pork barrel”

Veteran journalist and opinion maker Inday Espina-Varona in a Facebook post said there is a deeper reason for the lawmakers’ frustration at Taguiwalo and MC9 and why “the fat, fat pigs in Congress are getting ready to sink their claws into Judy Taguiwalo.”

Varona said that the many congressmen are against MC9 because it seeks to stop the continuation of patronage politics that make the beneficiaries feel like they owe politicians and feel obligated to keep supporting and voting them.

“Simply put, Congress ‘piggies’ want to dictate the flow of DSWD services so they can force people to kneel in thanks and be able to extract voters for services,” she said.

Varona added that because the congressmen are not accountable for the funds being distributed by the DSWD, the lawmakers are free to send the money wherever they please.

The congressmen’s threats against DSWD drove progressive groups to the streets.

Activists defend a government agency

Last September 13, progressive organizations trooped to the House of Representatives to support Sec. Taguiwalo against the congressmen opposing her.

Gabriela-Quezon City chairperson Nerissa Guerrero said she believes the DSWD under Taguiwalo is changing for the better.

“Under previous administrations, I seldom went to the DSWD to seek help. As someone from the lower income brackets, I was not informed enough about all the benefits I should be receiving,” Guerrero said.

“Now, with Ma’am Judy as secretary, the DSWD is trying to inform the people about its programs and reach out to the beneficiaries, especially those affected by calamities. We can rely on the department now, because we know that its chief has a heart that is pro-poor and pro-people,” Guerrero added.

Among those who participated in the rally in front of the House of Representatives before the second budget hearing was Favor.  He said he supports Taguiwalo and DSWD’s MC9.

Later that night, the Committee on Appropriations approved at its level DSWD’s proposed 2017 budget.  But it will have to go through at least two more stages—the approval of the House of Representatives in plenary and the bicameral sessions with the Senate—before it can serve the millions of Guerreros and Favors faster. #

 

Employees: Soliman’s complaint ‘politicking’

THE Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP) denies it is keeping quiet on the case of temporary employees fired by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Responding to a complaint posted online by immediate past secretary Corazon Soliman, SWEAP said it will always defend the rights of employees and urged her to name the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) employees she claims to have been unjustly fired by Taguiwalo.

“Who were the employees that were allegedly unjustly terminated or are being terminated?  It is certainly difficult for us to offer help those who do not seek our help,” SWEAP’s statement said.

The DSWD rank and file employees union was reacting to Soliman’s accusation that it is being “selective.”

“My heart is heavy… Some of my former colleagues in DSWD [MOA workers] are being terminated for loss of confidence and trust by the current leadership. Is it because they are associated with me, they cannot be trusted despite their outstanding and very satisfactory ratings on their performance contracts? Is this fair? Is this just?” Soliman’s post said.

“Is power consuming the ideals of fairness, workers right to due process?  When the test for fairness and just cause is implemented, I think there is failure in the current situation.  So where is SWEAP?  In the end could it be selective justice?” Soliman asked in a post that has since been deleted.

But SWEAP said its track record shows it has never abandoned the fight for employees’ rights.

“In fact, SWEAP unqualifiedly fights for the rights and welfare of all employees of the agency, as reflected in our new 2016-2019 Collective Negotiation Agreement.  The agreement is clear that we stand for the rights of regular, casual, contractual and event MOA workers, especially those who have been with the DSWD for a long time,” SWEAP said.

The union also refuses to be drawn to what it calls “politicking and selfish interests.”

“We will never allow the union to be used by traditional politicians who use their positions in government to amass wealth or selfish political power,” SWEAP said.

No time for interference

DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo in a statement said that she would rather focus on her work and perform her responsibilities to ensure prompt and compassionate service to the poor.

“I will not be derailed by unfounded criticisms and the unwelcome interference from former DSWD senior officials,” Taguiwalo said.

Taguiwalo said that the hiring and termination of DSWD personnel are in line with existing guidelines and the terms of contracts of individual staff.

Sources from DSWD said Taguiwalo has fired two MOA employees closely associated with Soliman and her 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program).

They refused to give the names of the fired employees and the nature of their engagement with the 4Ps, however.

Taguiwalo said her administration is still unearthing problems left behind by her predecessors.

“Reports from various ranking officials, rank and file employees, and, more importantly, beneficiaries and ordinary citizens have to be addressed,” Taguiwalo said.

The Commission on Audit reported last July that Soliman and other previous DSWD secretaries have yet to liquidate a total of P6.39 billion in funds as of 2015, including payouts from 2008 to 2014.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

 

 

 

 

Taguiwalo wants an ethic of service at DSWD

SECRETARY Judy Taguiwalo encouraged Department of Social Work and Development officials and staff to develop an ethic of service during the agency’s turn over ceremony last July 1.

In her speech, Taguiwalo extolled DSWD employees to serve the people even as she promised to look into the possibilities of regularizing as many staff as possible.

Watch highlights of the turn over ceremony in this video. (Editing by Divine Miranda) Read more

Taguiwalo and Mariano’s turn over ceremony speeches

LISTEN to new DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo and DAR secretary Rafael Mariano’s speeches at the  turn over ceremonies at their respective departments last July 1, 2016.

Both outlined the core programs they intend to implement as heads of their respective agencies, including regularization of contractual employees and their benefits, poverty alleviation, anti-corruption, faithful service, and others.

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