PALOMPON, LEYTE – Some P 238.7 million were distributed in this town starting Saturday, February 7, in “Emergency Shelter Assistance” (ESA) of P 30,000 each for those with “totally damaged houses” and P 10,000 for “partially damaged” homes from Yolanda, which struck the town last November 8, 2013 yet.
This is the first ever distribution of the controversial ESA for the year in the Leyte-Samar “Yolanda corridor”, which is funded in the General Appropriations Act of 2015.
7,895 beneficiaries got P 30,000 each while 5,326 got the P 10,000 each, or a total of 13,221 families. Palompon has a population of around 55,000 according to the 2010 census.
Meanwhile, it was also learned that some four towns in Northern Cebu, also affected by Yolanda, were also able to receive their ESA already.
Why Palompon is first?
Mayor Ramon Oñate said he is proud to note that Palompon is the first LGU in the region to receive the assistance, largely because they were the first to be able to submit initial documentary requirements as early as March 2014.
He lauded his social welfare office, headed by municipal social welfare officer-designate Raoul Bacalla, for their “efficiency and dedication” in compiling the required documentation, and “re-validating” the recipients as much as five times, “to eliminate complaints”.
The mayor also said “transparency and openness” accounted for the swift completion of the papers. By using the DAFAC system and being transparent with the listing of beneficiaries, they were able to weed out those who were not qualified; and more importantly, include qualified beneficiaries who were left out in the initial lists, for one reason or another.
Oñate also told beneficiaries that Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez was an important figure in fast-tracking the town’s ESA’s release. “When we had completed all the documentary requirements and submitted it to the national,” he told constituents, “we then called up the congresswoman everyday to help us push for its release.”
The congresswoman, on the other hand, returned the compliment to Palompon officials and employees for their dedication and hard work, saying that her office only did the following up but the real work was on the mayor’s perseverance and that of his team.
“Kining tanan nahitabo kay kugihan inyong mayor ug mga opisyales ug ang inyong MSWD,” she said.
She also said that as soon as other LGUs in her district are able to submit their documentary requirements to the DSWD central office, she would be glad to follow up the ESA’s release to each of them.
Leyte Vice Governor Carlo Loreto, who was also present, said he was not surprised to learn that Palompon would be the first LGU to get the ESA, knowing that officials in the town “get things done.”
He noted that even as it had just recovered from Yolanda, it was able to rehabilitate its tourism programs and the now world-famous Kalanggaman Island in a short time, making it the “Most Tourism Friendly LGU” in the country in 2014.
The vice governor clarified that there were similar distributions last 2014 for Tacloban, Tanauan, and Tolosa, the three most hard hit LGUs by the storm surge, but it was done using “savings” of the DSWD. This time, the ESA for affected LGU’s are now earmarked in the 2015 GAA and it is up to them to fast-track documentation to access the funds.
“Dedication, foresight and innovation”
Meanwhile, in an interview with municipal social worker-designate Raoul Bacalla, he gives credit to his predecessor for making the road easier for them as he was appointed to the post on April 2014 only.
His predecessor was among the very few social workers in the region who immediately implemented the “DAFAC” system, which helped them in the documentation for the ESA.
The DAFAC or Disaster Assistance and Family Access Card, is a relief and assistance monitoring system adopted by the DSWD in 2010 yet, and is supposed to be standard operating procedure whenever calamity of any nature strikes a certain place.
While DAFAC is only supposed to monitor how relief aid of DSWD is being distributed, it also became the very document that was the basis for the release of the ESA.
Bacalla said Palompon distributed the DAFAC to all affected residents by December 2013, just after Yolanda, and went the extra mile of reproducing four copies to be accomplished by each family.
The families got a copy, and the three remaining copies were for the barangay file, for the MSWD and the remaining one, for the regional DSWD. “If the families lost theirs, we were sure the barangay had theirs, we had ours, and there was the extra for the regional office,” Bacalla explained.
Little did they know then, that it would become a crucial document to the ESA. “It was only on November 2014, in a conference with Asec. Vilma Cabrera, that social workers realized how important the DAFAC was when she announced it was the primary basis for ESA.”
However, in their town, their MSWD already had a raw listing of those with totally and partially damaged houses based on DAFAC by March 2014, making their job of validating their lists easier. He said that during that time, their listing, more or less, reflected the real state of the housing conditions then, because the data was gathered proximate to the time that Yolanda hit.
Nonetheless, Bacalla said, the validation process still proved tricky. But they persevered, validating the list as much as five times. He said that getting the ESA was not a simple process. “We had to submit the lists based on the DAFAC, then a proposal. We also had to justify our proposal,” he said.
Meanwhile, to ensure the list was free of fraudulent claims, they demanded that barangay officials publicly posted the listings, and evaluators were sent to verify each complaint. They also reproduced the ESA guidelines in Bisaya, and distributed it to the barangays for the people to understand what it was all about.
Some barangay chairmen who initially opposed public posting were warned that their barangays would not be included. Bacalla added that the final listing, after being consulted with the people, were “verified and attested” by at two barangay councilors, and “concurred” by the barangay chairman “for accountability.”
However, he does not discount there are still people who would come forward and whine. But he is confident they would just be a handful as they exerted their best effort to explain what the ESA was all about, and who should get it.
Under the new guidelines, he said, excluded are households that earn more than P 15,000.00 a month and those who already got transitional houses or complete housing assistance which are usually worth more than P 30,000.00. But those who got shelter kits only are not disqualified because it is not a complete house.
It was also observed that the distribution was done in an orderly manner. It was done in batches, with the lines separated by just a thin nylon rope. At the start of the columns, the names of those who would get a check at the end of the line were already posted prominently, so that when they get to the releasing tables, all they had was to show their IDs, sign the release documents and get their checks.