As the agency mandated to register, license, and accredit, as well as monitor individuals, agencies, and organizations engaged in social welfare and development services, the Department of Social and Development (DSWD) has issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 16, series of 2018, which highlights the guidelines on the handling of complaints against social welfare and development agencies (SWDAs).

According to DSWD Secretary Virginia M. Orogo, MC 16 aims to institutionalize the system in the management of complaints against neglect, abuse, and exploitation of clients by erring SWDAs.

“The guidelines specifically aim to enhance the Department’s grievance mechanism systems and implement sanctions against those that violate policies and procedures regarding the registration and licensing of SWDAs and the accreditation of social welfare and development (SWD) programs and services,” the Secretary added.

A SWDA refers to non-stock non-profit corporation, organization or association implementing or intending to implement, either directly or indirectly, SWD programs and services in the Philippines, and assessed as having the capacity to operate administratively, technically, and financially. Its clients may include but not limited to the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable individuals, groups, families, and communities.

The DSWD is fulfilling its regulatory and quality assurance roles by developing standards on the registration, licensing, and accreditation of SWDAs and other service providers, and monitoring their compliance with these standards.

“We at the DSWD recognize the role being played by SWDAs in the delivery of basic social protection programs and services to our fellow citizens in need,” Sec. Orogo said.

“However, the Department doesn’t tolerate any act of abuse, neglect, or exploitation that may have been committed by these agencies against the clients that they serve. These guidelines will help ensure the quality of social protection services the SWDAs provide and will help us take the appropriate action against any erring SWDA,” she explained.

Filing of complaints

Under the memorandum circular, any person who has personal knowledge of an act or omission by a SWDA that is contrary to laws or regulations; unreasonable, unfair, oppressive, or discriminatory; irregular, immoral, or devoid of justification; inconsistent with the SWDA’s functions; and contrary to the directive of DSWD, may file a formal complaint to the DSWD Field Office (FO) in which the agency operates or in the FO in which the alleged act or omission occurred.

The complainants may include the offended party, parent or legal guardian of a client, an ascendant of collateral relative of the client within the third degree of affinity or consanguinity, an employee of the DSWD or other government agency, an employee of a registered, licensed, and accredited SWDA, or the Barangay Chairperson.

When a complaint is filed, the DSWD FO personnel who receives it will forward the same to the Field Director, who will then forward the complaint to the Field Office Review Committee (FORC).

The FORC will evaluate the complaint and recommend to the Field Director the appropriate action. The FORC may recommend whether to proceed with a fact-finding investigation or a formal hearing, dismiss the complaint due to lack of merit, treat the complaint as a request for technical assistance, or refer the complaint to the concerned agency for appropriate action.

Should the FORC recommend the conduct of a fact-finding investigation, the Fact-Finding Team (FFT) will lead the investigation, securing evidence, interviewing SWDA officials, personnel, and clients, and conducting other relevant activities that may expedite the investigation.

After the completion of the investigation, the FFT will subsequently recommend to either proceed with the formal hearings or to dismiss the complaints.


Penalties range from reprimand to the suspension of operation, revocation of registration, license, or accreditation, and the actual delisting of the SWDA.

Other penalties and sanctions include blacklisting and disqualification for application for registration or license and the total closure of the SWDA.

The guidelines cover social welfare and development agencies registered, licensed, or accredited by the DSWD as well as those unregistered and unlicensed organizations. ###