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A journey back home

For James Beni Wilson, courage was all that he needed to overcome his deep-rooted fear of knowing his past.

Adopted as a baby, Beni, as he is fondly called by his friends, was raised in the United States of America (USA) but decided to embark on a journey back to the Philippines to complete his identity.

“As I grew up in a foreign country, I started to see the difference between myself and the community. I felt that I did not belong,” said Beni.

He added that kids on their neighborhood would say a lot of nasty words about his physical appearance, especially about the color of his skin.

In spite of the hardships, Beni still tried hard to live and grow up normally, but deep in his heart he knew that a part of his identity still needed to be discovered.

Tracing roots

When Beni turned 18 years old, he contacted the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Visayas to help him locate and meet his biological parents and relatives.

After receiving confirmation from DSWD, Beni returned on August 2013 to his birthplace and started gathering important details about his missing past. This was his first time to set foot in his birthplace since he was adopted.

During his stay in his hometown, he found out that his second name, “Beni,” is a Visayan word for “Binitay,” which means “hanged” in English.

Beni was given that name because he was allegedly found hanging on a banana tree when he was still a baby, by a woman named Elizabeth Ochia. Elizabeth surrendered him to the Local Social Welfare and Development Office in Tabogon, northeast of Cebu.

To Beni’s surprise, however, a twist in his story was later revealed.

He learned that Elizabeth, the woman who allegedly found him, was his biological mother.  Beni further learned that he was christened Isagani Gulina Ochia by his biological family.

“Reading my case study report prepared by the DSWD made me wonder how a mother could abandon her child,” said James.

Acceptance and understanding

It took him a month to process the information emotionally before eventually realizing that there must have been a reason why he was surrendered by his mother. He eventually forgave his mother and accepted his fate.

Beni never had a chance to talk to Elizabeth as she died of liver cirrhosis four months before he arrived in the Philippines.  But his relatives told him about their family’s situation back then and how hard it had been for Elizabeth to give him up.

In fact, Beni’s biological family tried to get him back but it was too late for he had already been adopted by an American couple from Michigan through inter-country adoption.

Inter-country adoption refers to the process where a Filipino child is legally adopted by a foreigner or a Filipino citizen permanently residing abroad where the petition for adoption is filed.

Inter-country adoption is a step taken when domestic adoption is not immediately possible, and this is undertaken through the Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB), an attached agency of DSWD.

Quality time with biological relatives

On April 29, 2015, Beni made his second visit to the Philippines.  Unlike his first visit, Beni had more time to bond with his biological family.

By constantly communicating with his immediate family and relatives, he learned more things about himself. Slowly, his longtime questions about his true identity have been answered.

Helping fellow Filipino adoptees

Currently, Beni is back in the USA, carrying with him his goal to help fellow Filipino adoptees.

He now serves as a camp counselor for the Filipino Heritage Camp for Filipino adoptees in Colorado.  Through this program, he is able to interact with the Filipino adoptees and help them by sharing his experiences.

“I hope that I am able to connect with other Filipino adoptees because I want to see if they have similar feelings and experiences that I had while growing up as an adoptee, specifically those who were adopted by foreigners,” he disclosed.

To his fellow adoptees, Beni would advise them to learn more about themselves. He added, “Get information about your background and have an open mind to accept your past.”

Beni has a full-time job. But he plans to take up Bachelors in Social Work at Arizona State University through their online courses to gain more knowledge on how to deal with various kinds of people who need help.

Today, Beni has accepted his past and has moved on. With that, he can now focus on the present with the goal of achieving a better future with his loving parents, his newfound relatives, and his vocation of helping fellow adoptees. ###

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Humble backyard garden provides food on the table, generates additional income

Helen Camacho tends to her seedlings which she grows through Urban Container Gardening.  She attests that with her produce, she is able to put food on the table.

Helen Camacho tends to her seedlings which she grows through Urban Container Gardening. She attests that with her produce, she is able to put food on the table.

Bringing food on the table is a primary concern of every family,  more so for a poor family with little or no income at all to sustain nutritious meals.

To help address this, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) included the topic “Bio-Intensive Gardening (BIG)” in its enhanced modules for Family Development Sessions (FDS) regularly attended  by beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya.

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a human development program that invests in the health and education of poor families, primarily those with children aged 0-18. It provides cash grants to partner-beneficiaries who comply with the conditions of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for checkups, and attending the monthly FDS.

FDS is conducted monthly by DSWD and partners from non-government organizations, the private sector, and civil society organizations. It serves as a venue where topics on effective parenting, husband and wife relationships,  child development, laws affecting the Filipino family, gender and development, home management, active citizenship, and electoral education are discussed.

BIG teaches Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries to become food secure through backyard gardening since food grown at home is usually consumed by the family.

According to DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, achieving a well-fed and food-secure household would mean improving what people eat, in terms of quality, quantity, and variety.

This would require efforts related to increasing not only the available food supply, but also both physical and economic access to it.

Sec. Soliman encourages beneficiaries to engage in backyard gardening, specifically BIG, to provide fresh and higher quality vegetables with better nutritional values for the whole family.

Income generating hobby

For Helen Camacho,  a 43-year old Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary of Purok 13, Barangay Tibungco, Davao City, gardening is an income-generating hobby.

”Sa pirmiro nako nga pagtanom, nagsugod ko sa baynte ka semilya sa pechay. Nagakuha pud ko sa sementeryo og mga tetra pack aron matamnan (I started off with only 20 seedlings of Chinese cabbage. I also go to the nearby cemetery to gather and recycle tetra packs which I use as pots),” shared Helen.

From 20 pechay seedlings, Helen now has over 70 seedlings along with other crops that she cultivates in their house. To make soil containers, Helen personally sews the tetra packs that she gathers from the cemetery. She even builds her own makeshift racks.

“Dako kaayo og tabang ang urban container gardening sa amoang pagpamuyo. Busa magkugi gyud ko aron mas mapanindot pa ni (Urban container gardening is a huge help. I will really strive to improve my garden),” Helen said excitedly.

Helen has been cultivating her urban container garden since February 2013 and now has over 200 seedlings.

She narrated that her husband, 41-year old Alejandro, works as a tricycle driver and earns at most P300 a day. For additional income, Helen repacks the seedlings that she buys and sells it to  fellow Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries at P5 per piece. Helen also sells her produce to her neighbors or at the local market.

Her backyard garden also supplies her family’s food requirements, since they consume the vegetables which Helen harvests. This would result to savings which they could use to meet their other needs.

Urban Container Gardening magamit gyud ni namo kay dili lang kini makalingawan namo, usa pud kini ka pamaagi nga makakwarta kami (We can really use this Urban Container Gardening. It is more than a hobby but it is income generating as well),” explained Helen.

For those living in urban areas with little space for a backyard garden, urban container gardening is an initiative that hopes to help boost food security in the community.

Likewise, in Barangay Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, Pantawid Pamilya women-beneficiaries are growing high value crops such as strawberry,  lettuce,  and cauliflower,  among others. They are also engaged in backyard gardening and root crops production.

A mother of 13 children, Vercita Gawahan  is one of the more than  3,500 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Manolo Fortich town.  She loves to just stay at home while her husband works in a farm as the sole provider of the family.

After learning about BIG through FDS, however, Vercita thought of engaging in backyard gardening to help her husband sustain the needs of their large family.

Vercita said that she and her husband can now begin to look forward to a brighter future for their family because aside from the educational grants for their three children, she can now help augment the family income through the profits she makes by selling her garden’s produce.

”Sa pamamagitan ng Family Development Sessions ng Pantawid Pamilya, natutunan ko kung paanong malagpasan ang aking mga kahinaan at mag-focus sa aking mga kalakasan, na naging daan upang magbago ang aming buhay (Through the Pantawid Pamilya’s Family Development Sessions, I learned how to overcome my weaknesses and focus on my strengths which paved the way to achieve change in our lives),” she emphasized. ###

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Statement by Richard Bolt, ADB’s Philippines Country Director, on Pantawid Conditional Cash Transfer Program

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) would like to address recent media reports about the Pantawid conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, that have created false impressions about how program funds have been used. ADB reiterates its full support for the program, which has helped improve the health, education and job opportunities of nearly 4.5 million poor families in the Philippines.

It is unfortunate that outdated data was used in media reports claiming that 19 billion pesos of program funds did not go to intended beneficiaries. That figure is based on a calculation drawn from outdated 2009 data—at a time when the budget for the program was much smaller—rather than the most recent 2014 budget. Initial targeting errors have been substantially reduced by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), with advice from ADB and other partners. It is important to note that these targeting errors did not lead to misappropriation or misuse of funds.

Since 2010, ADB has worked closely with DSWD to ensure funding goes to intended beneficiaries. ADB technical assistance has supported DSWD in implementing measures—such as a grievance redress mechanism, extra training for staff, and spot checks in the field—to improve targeting models so they exclude non-eligible families.

As part of ADB’s continuing efforts to improve the program’s effectiveness, a new round of poverty assessment processes is ongoing to update the status of beneficiary households and ensure funds are properly directed.

This program provides cash grants to poor households based on their fulfillment of  health and education related conditions. From a small pilot of 6,000 families in 2007, the program has grown rapidly to cover 4.5 million families at the end of 2014. In terms of people reached, Pantawid is now the world’s third largest CCT program after Brazil and Mexico. Rigorous impacts evaluations have shown that the program is meeting its overall objectives. Monitoring and evaluation of the program by government and partners will continue.

For participating households, Pantawid has helped to promote near-universal enrolment of elementary school-age children, reduced child labor, and improved access to pre- and post-natal care. ADB is proud to partner with and support the government on this flagship program for poverty reduction.

Reprinted from:

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Sec. Soliman: Measures in place to keep a clean Pantawid Pamilya database

As part of their efforts to ensure that only the rightful beneficiaries are included in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman emphasized that measures and systems continue to be enforced to maintain a clean database for the program.

“We have a Grievance Redress System (GRS) which captures and processes complaints about the program and the beneficiaries. Through this, we have already delisted more than 77,000 beneficiaries,” she said.

She also added that the Department conducts regular spot checks nationwide and consultations with different partner-agencies and organizations to help improve the implementation of the program.

Sec. Soliman made this statement in reaction to recent reports citing a paper by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which stated “improvements are needed in the program’s targeting system to reduce an estimated leakage rate of 30%”.

ADB however has already issued a clarification saying that the paper they published referred to studies from 2013 and 2011, which in turn used data from 2009.

“It has been six years since the data being referred to was generated. Then, we only had 700,000 household-beneficiaries. Now, we have expanded to more than 4.4-million. A number of steps have already been taken to address the problems that arose when it was still being started. Different institutions, including ADB, has even recognized the Department’s efforts in line with this,” she added.

Second assessment

Sec. Soliman shared that the Department is currently conducting its second round of National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) that will profile whether a household is poor, near-poor or non-poor through the indicators specified by the Department.

“The NHTS-PR, or Listahanan, will help us determine who and where the poor are. After this second round of assessment, we should be able to get a registry of who should be included in our programs, particularly the Pantawid Pamilya,” she explained.

She pointed out recent disasters, which rendered many families poor, homeless and, some, jobless, thus making them much more in need of government support.

The Social Welfare Secretary enjoined the public to report, through the GRS, any complaint or questions about the Pantawid Pamilya. Messages can be sent through the text hotline 09189122813 or via electronic mail or via Facebook: Tanggapan ng Reklamo.#

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ADB clears DSWD on issue of CCT beneficiaries not poor

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reiterated the clarification of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the issue that 30 percent of beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program are not poor saying that  the figure was sourced based on 2009 data and earlier poverty targeting practices.

This morning, ADB Philippine Country Director Richard Bolt, issued a clarification on the matter.

He said,  “I wish to clarify that the figure in the “Learning Lessons” publication of ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department is sourced from a 2013 study done by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), which is based on 2009 data and earlier poverty targeting practices. It is unfortunate that this reference was not clear. “

Dir. Bolt explained that the targeting issue raised in the PIDS report has been fully addressed by the DSWD and conditional cash transfer program and related ADB support.

“As such, we are confident that the issue raised is no longer the case in the ongoing conditional cash transfer program,” Dir. Bolt further explained.

He emphasized that the Independent Evaluation report, drawing on impact evaluation, is strongly positive and supportive of the program and its achievements including improved health outcomes and increased school participation, as well as its likely effect on the employability of the beneficiaries, and their chances for breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty.

For her part, DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman expressed appreciation to ADB for this clarification.

She also shared that the Department is currently embarking on a nationwide assessment of families to determine who are poor, near poor, and non-poor which will become the basis for the listing of qualified beneficiaries of  government programs including the Pantawid Pamilya.

Pantawid Pamilya is a human development program implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that invests in the health and education of poor families, primarily those with children aged 0-18.  It provides cash grants to partner-beneficiaries who comply with the conditions of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for checkups, and attending the monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS).

Pantawid Pamilya is on its seventh year of implementation having started in 2008.  As of May 27, 2015, the program has expanded to 41,519 barangays in 144 cities and 1,483 municipalities in 80 provinces with 4.4 million household-beneficiaries nationwide.  ###

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Gov’t delivers P14M worth of goods to Ata-Manobos in Davao del Norte

Ata-Manobos listen to DSWD Sec. Soliman during the service caravan in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte.

Ata-Manobos listen to DSWD Sec. Soliman during the service caravan in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte.

Government officials led by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman brought some P14 million worth of goods and services for the 3,000 Ata-Manobos, an Indigenous Peoples (IP) group of Talaingod, Davao del Norte during an inter-agency service caravan last week.

Sec. Soliman was joined by Undersecretary Manny Bautista, executive director of Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace; Usec. Gettie Sandoval and Assistant Secretary Apple Oreta of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP); and, Asec. Jean Ubial of the Department of Health.

In her message, Sec. Soliman assured the Ata-Manobos of continued assistance to their group and to their town.

Among the services provided during the Serbisyo Caravan were Supplementary Feeding; onsite pay-out for social pension beneficiaries; onsite pay-out for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program cash grantees; and, distribution of family food packs, wheel chairs/assistive devices, and educational supplies.

The DSWD also distributed checks for the beneficiaries of livelihood assistance.

The Secretary added that DSWD will be constructing dormitories near public schools where IP children can stay, since their homes are too far from school.

The inter-agency service caravan is among the initiatives of the government to make programs and services accessible to the public.  Priority areas are far-flung and hard to reach places like Talaingod, which is home to the Ata-Manobos, who comprise 72 percent of the total town population. ###

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DSWD notes influx of indigents seeking aid, extends operations

As the lead agency in social protection, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) places emphasis in ensuring that indigent and vulnerable individuals are provided with the necessary assistance to help them cope during crisis situations.

Through its Protective Services Program, the DSWD offers various types of assistance to those in need which include the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS).

Under AICS, the DSWD provides medical, educational, burial and transportation assistance to persons/families in crisis situations, specifically those belonging to the informal sector and other poor, marginalized, vulnerable, and disadvantaged individuals.

Applicants for AICS may proceed to the Crisis Intervention Unit of the DSWD Central Office, DSWD Field Offices in their respective areas, or satellite offices located at the local government unit.

Given the huge bulk of clients seeking assistance from its CIUs, the DSWD is encouraging everyone to follow the step-by-step process in availing of assistance as follows:

  • Issuance of queue numbers and pre-screening of documents – During the pre-screening, clients should bring the complete supporting documents for the assistance being requested.  This takes about five minutes.
  • Registration and encoding in the Crisis Intervention Monitoring System (CrIMS), an online database system for CIU clients – Basic information of the client is put in the system. CIU also verifies if assistance has already been provided to clients. This takes about five minutes.
  • Interview, assessment, and recommendation of assistance needed – This involves the submission of supporting documents for the assistance being requested and filling-up of the General Intake Sheet (GIS) form. There will also be a thorough interview, as basis of assessment and recommendation of assistance. This takes about 20 minutes.
  • Review and approval of the Officer In-Charge to the Social Worker’s recommendation for  the assistance being requested by the client – This involves the submission of supporting documents and duly accomplished Certificate of Eligibility. This takes about 10 minutes
  • Release of Assistance
o    Release of Cash outright assistance (P5,000 and below) takes about ten minutes
o    Issuance of Guarantee Letter addressed to Service Provider (P5,000 and below) and/or Referral Letter takes about five minutes
o    Release of Check Assistance (more than P5,000) takes three to five days
o    Issuance of Guarantee Letter addressed to Service Provider (more than P5,000) within the day or up to three days

The ideal processing time is 50 minutes maximum per client exclusive of the waiting/queueing time, except for the Issuance of Guarantee Letter addressed to Service Provider (more than P5,000) which can be provided within the day or up to three days, and Release of Check (more than P5,000) which will be provided within three to five days.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that this process flow ensures the fast, smooth, and organized processing of the assistance needed by the clients.

The CIU at the DSWD Central Office, IBP Road, Batasan Hills, Quezon City is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM without noon break, from Monday to Friday.

“The CIU can only receive new clients until 5 p.m. However, disbursement of assistance will continue until 8 p.m.,” Sec. Soliman added.

The Secretary explained that those who will not make it to the 8 p.m. cutoff will be prioritized the next working day.

For the past 2 weeks, the CIU has been serving an increased number of clients ranging from 600 to 1,200 clients a day, extending its operation from 7:00 AM until past midnight or until all clients are served. With the influx of clients seeking assistance, the entire processing time of assistance is lengthened up to an average of 5 hours including waiting time in their queue, from the time client was screened until the assistance is released.

The CIU still maintained its express/priority lanes for older persons, persons with disabilities, and lactating mothers. The CIU discourages clients from bringing infants and/or young kids because they may find the waiting period stressful.

Along the operation of the Crisis Intervention Unit, the following common problems were encountered:

  1. Incomplete, lacking and outdated documents submitted by the clients (e.g. no Brgy. Certificate, Medical Certificate with no signature of the doctor or not bearing its license number, unsigned hospital bill/ laboratory request/ enrollment assessment form/ funeral contract, unregistered death certificate, and the likes)
  2. Long waiting/ queuing time, leaving some of the clients and their companion restless.
  3. Fraudulent documents submitted by the clients.

For the speedy facilitation of particular types of assistance, the DSWD is requesting clients to bring the following:

For Medical Assistance

  • Clinical Abstract/Medical Certificate with signature and license number of the attending physician (issued not later than 3 months)
  • Hospital Bill (for payment of hospital bill) or Prescription (for medicines) or Laboratory requests (for procedures)
  • Barangay Certificate of Residency/Indigency and any valid ID of the client

For Educational Assistance

  • Enrolment assessment form or certificate of enrolment/registration
  • School ID of the student/beneficiary
  • Barangay Certificate of Residency/Indigency and any valid ID of the client
  •     Any valid ID of the client

For Burial Assistance

  • Funeral Contract
  • Death Certificate of the deceased
  • Barangay Certificate of Residency/Indigency and any valid ID of the client
  • Permit to transfer/Health permit (for transfer of cadaver)

For Transportation Assistance

  • Barangay Certificate of Residency/Indigency and any valid ID of the client
  • Police Blotter (for victims of pick pockets, illegal recruitment, etc.)

A social case study report prepared by the LGU social worker/medical social worker, or a social case summary prepared by a registered social worker may be required by the CIU social worker to support assessment and recommendation of assistance.  ###

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More than 36,000 poor students get a shot at college education

In line with this year's opening of classes, DSWD Sec. Corazon Juliano-Soliman shares various updates on the Pantawid Pamilya education component, the Supplementary Feeding Program for day care centers and supervised neighborhood play, the Expanded Students’ Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), and the DSWD educational assistance provided through the Assistance for Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), during this afternoon's press briefing at the Central Office in Batasan, Quezon City.

In line with this year’s opening of classes, DSWD Sec. Corazon Juliano-Soliman shares various updates on the Pantawid Pamilya education component, the Supplementary Feeding Program for day care centers and supervised neighborhood play, the Expanded Students’ Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), and the DSWD educational assistance provided through the Assistance for Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), during this afternoon’s press briefing at the Central Office in Batasan, Quezon City.

A total of 36,003 poor students are assured of a college education this year through the Expanded Students’ Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) jointly implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).

The ESGP-PA scholars include new enrollees for school year 2015-2016, and those students who served as pilot grantees of the program which started in school year 2012-2013.

The ESGP-PA provides academic grants for the tertiary education of poor but deserving students belonging to indigent households identified through the Listahanan or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), giving priority to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries.  The students shall be enrolled in state universities and colleges to take up courses which are aligned with government key growth areas.

“After graduating from high school, the government will continue to help deserving students get a chance to achieve the elusive college education they dream of through the ESGP-PA,” DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said.

Under the program, each grantee is entitled to a maximum grant of P60,000 a year or P30,000 per semester to cover tuition fees, miscellaneous fees, and expenses such as transportation, board and lodging, and other related education expenses.

To strengthen the program implementation, a National Steering Committee (NSC) is created to oversee operations and monitoring, with CHED as the chair.

In cases where the allocation for specific schools and regions remains unfilled, a pool of potential grantees is ready for admission and replacement.  Furthermore, re-allocation of slots per SUC and per region may also be done based on the need and as assessed by the NSC.

Based on the list provided by CHED, there are 80 ESGP-PA scholars enrolled in various campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP), two of whom recently graduated as valedictorians – David Louie Manansala of Novaliches, and Alyannah Terite of Pasay City. Both will take up civil engineering, with David enrolled in UP Los Baños while Alyannah will begin college life in UP Diliman.

“The ESGP-PA program is pursuant to the commitment of government to poverty alleviation with the aim of breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty.  By giving these students the chance to have a college education, we are providing them the opportunity to lift their families out of poverty through better employment when they graduate,” Secretary Soliman added. ###

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