'Like Pharmally?' DSWD says cash aid payout provider picked through proper process

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 14) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) scrutinized its financial service providers (FSPs) before tapping them for cash aid distribution, an official said Friday.

DSWD Assistant Secretary Glenda Relova said they chose FSPs for the social amelioration program based on the qualifications approved by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. These include having a license to operate as an electronic money issuer, experience in commercial rollout, financial capability, and an established business model.

Of the seven firms that sent their business proposals to the DSWD, six — including Starpay — passed the agency's scrutiny.

"Lahat po ay masusi na pinagdaanan ito," Relova said.

[Translation: All of them underwent a thorough selection process.]

The assurance comes after Starpay was likened to the controversial Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. In a Senate hearing early this week, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan noted that like Pharmally, Starpay is also a little-known firm that was tapped for a major government project.

Pharmally won several contracts worth over ₱8 billion from the government — including those awarded for the supply of allegedly "overpriced" face masks and face shields - even though the company had a paid-up capital of just ₱625,000.

Meanwhile, Starpay was tasked to deliver the bulk of cash aid worth "more than ₱50 billion" — beating other more established FSPs like GCash, Sen. Manny Pacquiao previously said.

Initially, all six FSPs were asked to handle the distribution of cash aid for the same number of beneficiaries, Relova explained.

But the agency had to "recalibrate" after learning that most of the beneficiaries did not provide contact numbers. She said only Starpay and RCBC "signified" they can distribute financial assistance to those without contact numbers.

Relova also said all funds given to FSPs are "accounted for."

"Wala po tayong nawawalang pondo," she added.

[Translation: We don't have missing funds.]