Pacquiao calls for Senate probe into 'missing’ pandemic funds

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 15) — Senator Manny Pacquiao on Thursday filed a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the allegedly missing ₱10.4-billion worth of funds in the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) intended to help the poor during the pandemic.

In the Proposed Senate Resolution No. 779, Pacquiao said there is an “urgent need to look into this anomaly to untangle the web of corruption” involving the Department of Social Welfare and Development as well as Starpay.

Starpay, an e-wallet application, is the electronic money issuer which the DSWD hired for the distribution of the second tranche of the SAP.

The lawmaker said Starpay was tasked to distribute cash payouts to 1.8 million beneficiaries amounting to ₱14 billion, but only 500,000 beneficiaries were able to install the app. He noted under the disbursement scheme, recipients could only receive or withdraw subsidy by downloading Starpay.

“This means around 1.3 million projected beneficiaries were unable to download the said e-wallet application and therefore could not have electronically received through Starpay the subsidy amounting to Php 10.4 billion earmarked for them,” the resolution read.

It added that DSWD records show, however, that the payouts have been completed.

Pacquiao first made the accusation in a briefing earlier this month. The department has already denied his claims, maintaining all funds were accounted for.

President Rodrigo Duterte also called Pacquiao “punch-drunk” for alleging such sizeable amount has gone missing and added that can never happen under his watch.

The senator earlier accepted the President’s dare to expose corruption in the government after he claimed the Duterte administration is more corrupt than its predecessor.