MANILA – Local officials behind irregularities in the distribution of cash aid under the social amelioration program (SAP) will face the full force of the law, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday.
“(The Department of Justice) is giving priority to the investigation of complaints against barangay and other local government officials for irregularities or fraudulent acts relative to the distribution of SAP cash aid because these cases take on a sinister and disgraceful character,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Echoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s position, he said these crimes, if proven true, prey not only on the government but those on the economic fringes of society “considering that money intended for poor hungry people is unlawfully taken away from them”.
Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, meanwhile, said these cases will not be taken up solely by the DOJ’s main office.
“The cases are all over the country not only here at (DOJ) Main. I instructed all heads of office all over the country to set these for preliminary investigations (as soon as possible), to monitor progress and report to us. Hindi lang isang kaso yan. Marami yan all over the country (It is not just one case but there are a lot all over the country), so it is up for every City Prosecutor to schedule the hearings,” he said.
In a taped public address on Tuesday night, Duterte assured that all the funds spent for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response are accounted for and used in accordance with Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
He, however, said irregularities in the spending of Covid-19 funds should be explained by local officials.
About 23 village officials were slapped with criminal cases while 110 others are currently under “case buildup” over alleged anomalies in the distribution of cash aid to low-income households.
The government has so far received a total of 318 complaints against the supposed graft and corrupt practices of local officials. (IA/PNA)