Extortion of gov’t cash aid | Inquirer Opinion

Extortion of gov’t cash aid

/ 05:12 AM June 20, 2024

Two barangay officials of Matanao, Davao del Sur, are facing criminal and administrative charges at the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly deducting P8,500 from the P10,000 cash aid given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to Anne Villarin, a pregnant beneficiary.

In a video post that became viral, Villarin said that after receiving the cash aid, she was told by the barangay officials to remit the money to the barangay hall.

After doing that, the officials reduced her money to P1,500 and kept the rest. Later, when the post drew strong adverse reaction, the officials offered to return the P8,500, but she refused to accept it and instead, with the assistance of the DSWD, filed the complaints.

The DSWD gave her an additional P8,500 to make up for the unauthorized deduction. The officials involved had not given any explanation on why they partook of a big chunk of her cash aid.


In light of the weight of the evidence against those officials, they face the prospect of being dismissed from their positions and imprisoned for violation of antigraft laws.

It took a lot of guts for Villarin to take to social media to complain about the action of the barangay officials. It is common knowledge that these officials, especially those in the rural areas, use their powers to keep a tight grip on their constituents.

Feeling of entitlement

Unless there is a strong police presence in their areas of governance, they are prone to conducting themselves as the kingpins (or symbol of the law) in their territory. The feeling of entitlement is often pervasive and is displayed whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Woe to any resident who dare question their authority or refuse to do their bidding. That “lack of respect” could give rise to adverse physical or social consequences.


Although the majority of the country’s barangay officials are upright and responsible, there are some who are unable to resist the temptation to get a piece of the cash aid that their constituents receive from the government.

Note that the list of beneficiaries requires the confirmation by barangay officials that they are actual residents and that their low income level justify the grant of financial assistance. That action makes available to them accurate information about the beneficiaries and the money they can expect to receive.


Depending on the number of beneficiaries, the amount of money given to the barangay residents on payment dates could run to tens of thousands of pesos.

Better than nothing

Considering the almost life and death power of barangay officials over the entitlement to cash aid, the better part of discretion for beneficiaries whose cash aid draws the interest of barangay officials is to keep their mouth shut and treat any suggestion to share their blessings as par for the course in local governance.

Rather than protest any “request” for sharing, giving in would assure the continued inclusion of the name of the obliging beneficiary in the list of eligible cash aid recipients.

The money that would remain after the barangay officials have taken liberties with the cash aid would be better than nothing. For some beneficiaries, that amount could make the difference between having food on the table for a few days without going into debt at a nearby store or skipping meals.

The barangay officials who extorted money from Villarin chose the wrong person to mess with. She stood up for her rights over the cash aid and threw all caution to the wind when she went to social media to air her grievance.

The DSWD did the right thing in taking up the cudgels for Villarin and assisting her in filing the complaints. Left to her own devices, she probably would have accepted the offer of the barangay officials to return the P8,500 and to treat the matter as a case of honest mistake.

High cost of living

This incident should be an eye-opener to the DSWD and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on the need to closely monitor the distribution of cash aid that the government is giving (or in the future plan to give) to the D and E sectors of our society who are most adversely affected by the present high cost of living.

The DSWD should inform the beneficiaries of their rights over the cash aid and encourage them to report any attempts by barangay officials or third parties to get a piece of their money.

On the part of the DILG, it behooves it to order its staff in the field to keep a close watch on barangay officials who may be tempted to think that, because their signature enabled their residents to get manna from the government, they are entitled to have a piece of it.

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The poor in our midst should not be robbed by the people who are supposed to be their protector.


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