BY ATTY. RONQUILLO C. TOLENTINO
Last flickering gasp of a dying political power
The Philippine Red Cross (formerly Philippine National Red Cross), a voluntary humanitarian organization, was created in 1947 by virtue of Republic Act 95, as amended.
The Philippine Red Cross serves as an auxiliary arm of the government in providing relief, health and welfare to the most vulnerable people in need, including victim of disasters.
On April 27, 2010 a memorandum of agreement was made and entered into by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine Red Cross on the El Niño phenomenon that was then hitting the country and greatly affected the agricultural sector and livelihood of farmers, fisher folks and indigenous people.
The outgoing President had instructed to fast-track the distribution of government rice assistance to farmers, fisher folks and indigenous people affected by the El Niño phenomenon with funding approval of P500 million.
As the planned distribution of government rice assistance came within Section 261 of Article XXII of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines prohibiting all government agencies to release, disburse or spend public funds during 45 days before a regular election except for salaries of personnel, and for regular and routinary expenses that the Commission on Elections may authorize after due notice and hearings, the DSWD requested to Comelec for an exemption. The COMELEC denied the request for exemption.
Considering the Comelec denial of the DSWD’s request for exemption pursuant to the Omnibus Election Code, all funds for disaster victims were ordered by the national government to be turned over to and administered and disbursed by the Philippine Red Cross subject to the supervision of the Commission on Audit or its representatives in accordance with Section 261 XXII of the Election Code.
The Philippine Red Cross willingly agreed to have the P500 million in two schedules: P250 million (consisting of P237,500,000 for the initial purchase of 190,000 sacks of rice at 50 kilograms per sack or 9,500,000 kilograms at P1,250 per sack from the National Food Authority for the first 190,000 farmers, fisher folks and indigenous people affect by the El Niño phenomenon) and P12,500,000 for administrative cost in the implementation of the program and made available to the Philippine Red Cross upon signing of the approved MOA and receipt of the required documents.
The remaining amount of P250,000,000 with the same allocation of the initial release upon submission of the Fund Utilization Report of the first release certified by the Accountant and approved by the President/Chairman showing a summary of expenses, distribution list of beneficiaries duly signed/acknowledged of accomplishment report and validation/favorable recommendation by the Internal Audit Report (IAS) of the DSWD.
Actually, the list of farmers, fisher folks and indigenous people beneficiaries of the Rice Assistance Program were made available to the Philippine Red Cross by the DSWD and Department of Agriculture.
In Aklan, Dr. Minda B. Brigoli, CEO VI, regional director, Department of Social Welfare and Development in her May 20, 2010 letter to Gov. Carlito S. Marquez, stated that there are 4,187 small farmers beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in four municipalities who were identified as recipients of the Rice Assistance Program. These are the municipalities of Balete with 643 farmers, Buruanga with 311 farmers, Libacao with 2,078 farmers and Madalag with 1,155 farmers.
Gov. Carlito S. Marquez and the Municipal Local Government Units involved in the Rice Assistance Program have sincerely and seriously manifested their willingness to complement the rice assistance program. The acts of Gov. Marquez and the municipalities’ mayors affected by the El Niño phenomenon should be appreciated.
As to outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she can always look forward that history being the final judge of deeds would look kindly at her when the high court of history shall sit in judgment.
Verily, this Rice Assistance Program for families affected by the El Niño phenomenon is a concern that merits praise – implemented by an administration in the last flickering gasp of a dying political power.