A preemptive budgetary provision crafted to prevent another large-scale siphoning of government funds, as was supposedly done in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, is making it difficult for civil society organizations (CSOs) and artists groups lumped under this category to obtain grants for cultural projects.
For years, the Virgin Labfest, a project that showcases “unpublished, unstaged, untested and untried” plays by budding and veteran playwrights; and the Iligan-based Integrated Performing Arts Guild (Ipag), a resident performing arts company of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, were among arts groups that enjoyed token government funding for annual projects.
Things, however, began to change for most of them the past months when the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) imposed more documentary requirements from CSOs before their grants could be released. The additional requirements have either prevented or made it more difficult for such CSOs to go ahead with projects.
Meanwhile, the Internet is rife with sob stories from other groups of artists, writers and other creatives classified under CSO whose plans were also delayed or downscaled (if not scrapped altogether) because of the new requirements.
A provision introduced in the 2014 General Appropriations Act, specifically Section 66, requires CSOs to seek first an accreditation from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) indicating they are “legitimate” nongovernment organizations (NGOs) working with their local communities for relevant causes.
Malacañang introduced the provision in its 2014 National Expenditure Program (NEP), the proposed annual national budget submitted to Congress, as a response to the pork barrel money-laundering scam allegedly involving businesswoman Janet Napoles and several legislators. The new provision is meant to prevent a repeat of the multibillion scheme.
The provision also holds government agencies accountable for assistance funds released to private groups such as CSOs, and states that “CSOs may only be identified as a recipient, beneficiary or implementing entity of government or public funds upon accreditation by the DSWD, following the guidelines to be jointly issued by the DSWD (Commission on Audit and Department of Budget and Management)… in consultation with agencies concerned.”
The joint resolution has since been issued.
Because the budgetary provision gives the DSWD sole authority to accredit, this means a CSO that does not have the department’s nod would not be able to obtain a government grant from the NCCA.
But to be accredited, a laundry list of documentary requirements includes clearances or certificates attesting to a CSO’s legitimacy from the local mayor’s office and the barangay chair, a business permit issued to a “nonprofit” organization, a sanitation permit, a list of employees, among others.
The DSWD also asks for a Bureau of Internal Revenue-prescribed and –authorized official receipt bearing the CSO’s tax identification number and a photocopy or scanned copy of the CSO’s bank book “with complete bank account information of the organization” including the account name, number and branch.
The DSWD’s website also lists the following criteria for a CSO’s accreditation:
• It should have operated for “at least” three years.
• It has no derogatory record with any government agency.
• It must not be in default or delayed in liquidating any funds received from a government agency.
• A member must not be related within the fourth civil degree of affinity to any DSWD official involved in the processing of its application or any official of the funding government agency.
CSOs are also required to liquidate fully previous grants by government agencies before any new release would be transferred to them.
On top of all this, the DSWD states that accreditation “shall be valid only for a period of one year from the date of issuance, unless revoked sooner.”
Then Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, in an article that appeared in the department’s website, said accreditation makes sure that only legitimate CSOs that are “reputable, qualified and capable to implement programs or projects using government funds” would benefit.
Soliman was at the helm when the DSWD, the COA and the DBM passed the joint resolution detailing the requirements.
Rody Vera, the head of Writer’s Bloc Inc., said the Virgin Labfest had received grants from the NCCA for most of the past 10 years.
“We always request about P1.5 million for the annual festival. We always get P150,000. OK na rin. But this year, hindi namin kinaya ang DSWD accreditation requirements. Nag-default na lang ang aming proposal… Every year we have to submit a proposal as if it’s the first time we are asking for assistance,” he said in a telephone interview.
Initially, Vera said the NCCA informed his group that the grant proposal for this year had already been approved “pending fulfillment of requirements,” one of which is the DSWD accreditation.
Vera said his team spent six months and nearly P13,000 to accomplish the documentary requirements. “All documents had already been notarized and signed by concerned parties. Then the DSWD changed the forms,” he noted.
Queried via text message to elaborate, Vera added: “I do not know the specific office because the NCCA is the one that returned our forms and provided us with new forms to fill up. Sinabi lang ng NCCA (representative) sa akin nabago na daw ang forms.”
Vera said that in previous years, the NCCA approved the Virgin Labfest’s funding by November and would issue a list of documentary requirements. By January, a memorandum of agreement would be signed between their CSO and the NCCA. The Labfest is held every June at Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Vera singled out the business permit listed among the requirements. As it is, many of the artists’ groups staging workshops, projects and other similar endeavors are informal organizations among peers and other like-minded individuals and usually meet in the residence of a member.
“Bahay-bahay lang sa komunidad ang meetings,” he noted.
(In Part 2 next week: IPAG’s story, DSWD’s response)