Local government units (LGUs) in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal can decide if the emergency assistance to locked-down residents will be cash or packaged relief items.

The LGUs were given the discretion to decide the form of aid by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The two agencies issued a circular last Thursday containing the guidelines for the distribution of the assistance for residents affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Rodrigo Duterte had approved the release of P22.9 billion for Covid-affected individuals.

Each individual in a household will get P1,000, with a maximum of P4,000 for each family.

The circular, issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, was signed by DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, and DILG Officer in Charge Bernardo Florece Jr.

Under the guidelines, the assistance, if in cash, must be distributed 15 days after a local government receives it and 30 days if it is in kind.

“As soon as the Special Allotment Release Order and Notice of Cash Allocation are received by the LGUs, the mayors will need to issue an executive order detailing therein the type, manner and process of distribution. After the issuance of the EO, they can start the distribution.” Malaya said.

Low-income households, with members who are working in informal economies, will be the first to receive the Social Amelioration Program assistance. Next are additional beneficiaries, waitlisted beneficiaries, those belonging to vulnerable groups, including indigent individuals living alone, persons with disabilities or PWDs, and solo parents.

The LGUs can also assist other locked-down affected individuals so long as there are funds available.

Malaya said the DSWD would provide the LGUs a list of previous SAP beneficiaries to serve as a reference in determining the individuals who will be given financial aid.

Mayors and barangay heads must first post the approved names and village of district of the target beneficiaries before the actual distribution, he said.

The list was expected to be posted on the LGUs’ official website, social media accounts and at noticeable places in the community to ensure transparency and accountability.

Malaya assured the public there are safeguards to ensure that the funds will reach the intended beneficiaries.

“We will make sure that the funds downloaded to the LGUs are used for purposes they were intended for. Before distribution, the mayor should issue an executive order detailing therein the type, manner, or process of distribution so that the public is properly guided.

They are also required to create a Grievance and Appeals Committee per LGU where people can submit complaints,” he said.

A Joint Monitoring and Inspection Team (JMIT) in each LGU headed by the DILG city or municipal local government operations officer and representatives of the DSWD, Philippine National Police, City or Provincial Prosecutors Office, and civil society organizations will be created.

The JMIT will act on complaints from constituents concerning the financial aid, monitor LGU compliance with applicable guidelines, seek the assistance of higher authorities in case of delay or anomalies in the distribution, and cause the filing of administrative or criminal cases against public officials or individuals involved in irregular or unlawful practices relative to the financial aid.

Malaya said the police would immediately investigate reported cases of anomalies, irregularities or graft and corruption concerning the aid distribution.