May 23, 2024

In a forum during the Baguio City Council’s regular session on Feb. 5, city officials and heads of concerned city government offices engaged in a dialogue regarding the transparency and efficiency in the distribution of assistance being undertaken by the local government.

Led by Councilors Jose Molintas and Betty Lourdes Tabanda, the discussion delved into issues and challenges in the distribution of financial, educational, and other forms of assistance to the community.

Molintas and Tabanda emphasized the importance of coordination between different government offices involved in assistance distribution. 

Cynthia Langagan, acting City Social Welfare Development Development officer, said there is close coordination between the CSWD Office and the Department of Social Welfare and Development in identifying the beneficiaries, assessing their needs, and delivering timely and appropriate support to the beneficiaries.

Nonetheless, she called for more enhanced coordination between the Office of the Congressman and their office to ensure accurate assessment of clients and avoid duplication of services. 

Molintas expressed appreciation for the efforts of the CSWDO in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities even beyond office hours without additional pay.

The councilor stressed also that the allocation of assistance should not be “politicized.” 

“The least that we want to do is to politicize the distribution of assistance. We are using public funds, so we should not make it appear like it is coming from the pocket of any politician,” he stated.

He further recommended the implementation of Internet-based application systems to streamline operations.

Langagan, on the other hand, said face-to-face assessment is necessary to ascertain the legitimacy of documents and prevent fraud.

Meanwhile, Tabanda raised concerns on the fairness and transparency in distributing financial aid to college students under the city government’s Baguio College Educational Assistance Grant which was institutionalized through an ordinance. She said there are suspicions that certain officials receive more allocations than others.

Langagan said 22 students had been allocated for each city official during the past semesters. While city officials may provide recommendations or endorsements for students, she said the screening committee conducts the final assessment and the selection of qualified beneficiaries.

Affirming the need for transparency to ensure fairness in the allocation and approval of financial grants for qualified students, she agreed to provide reports on the selection of beneficiaries.

The discussion addressed concerns raised by the officials regarding overcrowding during the distribution of assistance.

General Services Office Head Eugene Buyucan said there is a need for alternative venues to accommodate large numbers of beneficiaries and to avoid the disruption of normal operations in the offices of City Hall. 

Molintas said there is a need for guidelines and protocols to improve the distribution process and minimize inconvenience to applicants, especially the senior citizens. – Jordan G. Habbiling