MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his warning to local officials against taking advantage of the national government’s emergency cash aid for the poor.

The President made the warning in an address in which he read out names of 89 barangay captains who were “preventively suspended” for six months by the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to anomalies in the distribution of the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) funds.

Other barangay chairmen, treasurers and secretaries are still under investigation over the SAP anomalies.

He urged the Ombudsman to dismiss the erring barangay officials from service if proven guilty.

“At the end of the investigation, if you are good, then you are exonerated. But if you are guilty, I ask — I am asking now the Ombudsman, I’m requesting, most respectfully requesting the Ombudsman to dismiss him — dismiss them from the service,” he said.

Duterte noted that malversation of public funds is a “very serious” offense.

“I warned you, pag-umpisa pa lang sinabi ko (from the very beginning I said), do not f*** with this, itong pera sa Pantawid. Iyong panahon ng Covid na namigay ang gobyerno ng pera para sa mga mahirap. Sinabi ko na, lalo na sa barangay level, huwag na huwag ninyong gawin (During the time of Covid when the government is distributing money to the poor. I said, especially in the barangay level, don’t do it),” he said.

If proven guilty, he said dishonest officials would no longer be allowed to run for public office.

“Alam mo ang masakit diyan (You know what hurts)? When they are finally dismissed, it will always carry, the — it will always carry the — the dismissal will always be accompanied by statement that you are no longer eligible for public office. Iyan ang masakit diyan (That’s what hurts). Hindi ka na puwedeng tumakbo maski water boy sa barangay mo) you can’t run for office even as water boy in your barangay),” he said.

Duterte, in his past speeches, urged the public to report local officials stealing emergency subsidies for poor families.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) conducted probes of local officials involved in anomalies in the implementation of the SAP, which gives cash subsidy to qualified beneficiaries to help them cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government extended cash aid to the country’s 18 million poorest families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and community quarantines under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) released the SAP’s first tranche from April to June with each family receiving at least P5,000 up to P8,000.

In May 2020, he said a cash reward will be given to any person who would give information leading to the arrest of local officials involved in the corruption of funds intended for SAP recipients.

Billions of pesos were allocated to fund the SAP which granted a P5,000 to P8,000 monthly cash aid to about 18 million low-income Filipino families affected by the pandemic.

The cash aid program was said to be the “largest financial aid package ever granted to Filipino households.”