The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is partnering with local government units (LGUs) on the handout or distribution of government aid to beneficiaries of the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program to speed up the release of such immediate aid to indigent, vulnerable and other disadvantaged Filipinos mired in unexpected crises, according to Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.

Villafuerte, who is majority leader of the Commission on Appointments  (CA), said this plan was revealed by Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian during last week’s  committee hearing of this bicameral body on his ad interim appointment as DSWD chief. 

According to the DSWD website, AICS is a “social safety net or stop-gap mechanism” aimed at supporting the recovery of persons and families from  unexpected crises like illness or death of family members, natural or man-made calamities or disasters, and other crisis situations.

The CA subsequently confirmed during its plenary session the appointment of Gatchalian along with those of 50 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) top officers, including vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Arthur Cordura and Navy flag officer-in-command  Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr.  

“It heartens us that Secretary Rex, our former colleague in the House, has once more proven to be the right man for the DSWD job in taking steps to fast-track the release of AICS assistance to the intended beneficiaries by partnering with our LGUs in the handout of such badly needed government aid,” said Villafuerte, a former CamSur governor and now president of the National Unity Party (NUP). 

During the CA’s plenary session before Gatchalian’s appointment  was confirmed, Villafuerte said nobody from the 12-member contingent of the House would ask any question from their former colleague in the chamber as all of its members were fully supportive of the Secretary.

“The nominee was once our colleague in the present Congress. We (House contingent) believe in his competence, integrity, and fitness,” Villafuerte said. 

Earlier, in the meeting of the CA committee on labor, social welfare and migrant workers, when Villafuerte proposed to Gatchalian to partner with LGUs in distributing the AICS payouts as a way to hurry up the release of such government assistance to intended beneficiaries, the Secretary said this was already the plan of the DSWD in recognition of local governments as the Department’s partners in development.

Said Villafuerte: “Just a suggestion, DSWD lacks the manpower to do payouts. It takes time even if you have the budget. May I suggest that, dapat po mag partner ang DSWD with LGUs through a MOA sa downloading ng AICS. Most of the members here are former LGU executives like Senator JV (Ejercito) and Senator Imee (Marcos). I think it’s about time you tap LGUs, especially because you had served as a former LGU executive too, as it will help a lot in speeding up the release of the payouts.”

“We know that you lack the manpower  as you lack the bonded officials to take charge of keeping and distributing the funds. For example in CamSur, we have six bonded officials,” he added.

Gatchalian, who was Valenzuela City representative prior to his appointment by President Marcos to the DSWD top post last January, told Villafuerte that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on such a partnership with LGUs has already been drafted and forwarded to local governments.

“The MOA was released last week because we fully look at our LGU as partners in development and I agree that we should use existing (LGU)  infrastructure to augment (the distribution),” Gatchalian said at the CA committee meeting.

The Secretary, who had also served as mayor of Valenzuela,  said that given its manpower constraints, the DSWD is working closer with LGUs on his watch as the Department can tap local-government infrastructures and the local executives’ knowledge of their respective constituents in the implementation of social welfare programs and projects.

According to the DSWD website, AICS is a “social safety net or stop-gap mechanism” aimed at supporting the recovery of persons and families from  unexpected crises like illness or death of family members, natural or man-made calamities or disasters, and other crisis situations.

Such provisions of psychosocial interventions or direct financial or material assistance are meant to help the target beneficiaries meet their basic needs in the form of food, transportation, medical, educational and burial assistance.

The target beneficiaries are persons or families who are indigent, vulnerable, disadvantaged or are otherwise in crisis situations based on the assessment of government social workers.

This AICS program has, as of the year’s first quarter, provided assistance to 581,492 persons—educational assistance to 17,541 people; medical assistance (230,301); transportation assistance (1,688);  burial assistance (36,821), food assistance (200,853) and other cash assistance (93,156). 

During the CA committee meeting, Villafuerte welcomed Gatchalian’s commitment to rev up the implementation of the DSWD’s intervention programs, including the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) and the assistance for solo parents, and suggested that the Department “check and validate”  the master list of target beneficiaries to weed out unqualified individuals. 

“We hope that under your leadership, the DSWD will be able to carefully study the beneficiaries’ list. We’ve been trying to raise this in the Congress because over  the past few years there had been non-deserving beneficiaries in CamSur, for example. In our province marami pong beneficiaries doon na sementado ang bahay then yung katabi niya po ay walang bahay na  tarpaulin lang yung bubong and yet they are not included in the 4Ps.”

Gatchalian agreed with Villafuerte’s observation and replied that the good news is that the “Listahanan” poverty database used by the DSWD as a reference for identifying target beneficiaries will be replaced by the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS), which will be fully implemented beginning 2024 by virtue of Republic Act (RA) 11315 or the “CBMS Act.” 

Instead of drawing up another Listahanan list, he said the DSWD will rely on the would-be CBMS, to be drawn up by the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA). 

Gatchalian informed Villafuerte that, “The beauty about next year is the CBMS Law that Congress passed. Listahanan will end its life this year. We will no longer be creating another Listahanan. So with CBMS being the main driver na for database, LGUs will be empowered to make it more responsive. In that law nakalagay doon na bawal na kami gumawa ng panibagong Listahanan. So the database creation will no longer be with the Department but with PSA (and) the LGUs running the CBMS to make it more responsive.

“And I agree with Congressman LRay (that) the Listahanan is not as responsive. Naging kongkreto na ‘yung bahay na sa listahan pa rin, humirap na ‘yung tao wala pa rin sa listahan. So hopefully working with the PSA and the LGUs on the CBMS Law we can now get more accurate snapshot na mas mabilis niyong puwedeng i-upload or i-upgrade,” he added.

The PSA website said the CBMS is an organized technology-based system of collecting , processing , and validating necessary disaggregated data , that may be used for planning, program implementation and impact monitoring at the local level while empowering communities to participate in the process.

Villafuerte earlier said that solo parents are entitled to the 10% discount and value-added tax (VAT) exemption on their purchases of essentials such as baby’s milk, diapers and doctor-prescribed medicines for their  kids six years of age and below, as provided under the “Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act.”

One of the lead authors of RA 11861, Villafuerte said that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) recently issued Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 1-2023 on the implementation of the tax privileges to be  accorded establishments that are to grant the 10%-discount and VAT-exemption to qualified single parents on their purchases of goods for their babies, toddlers and preschoolers that are listed under the law.   

However, he pointed out that this hefty price discount under the law can be availed of only by solo parents earning P250,000 each or below per year—the same income bracket as those who are exempted from paying income taxes under RA 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

Under RR 1-2023, the actual grant of the discounts and VAT exemptions to the qualified single parents are subject to the guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with  the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). 

Villafuerte explained that under RR 1-2023, qualified single parents or the guardians of qualified dependents are entitled to the 10% discount on, and VAT-free, purchases from drugstores, pharmacies, grocery stores and similar establishments of breastmilk or infant formula, food supplements and micronutrient supplements as well as sanitary diapers for their kids with the age of six years or below.

Qualified solo parents are also entitled to the same privileges on their purchases of branded or generic medicines, vaccines and medical supplements, provided that these are medically prescribed by attending physicians for preventing or treating diseases, illnesses and injuries, and whose prescriptions are in the names of the qualified children.



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