Colleagues from various social work organizations have appealed to the incoming president “to appoint a professional social worker for the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or within the qualifications of an experienced development worker, exposed and familiar to the wide range of welfare issues and social protection programs.” The collective appeal was simply dismissed.
With the lingering impact of the nexus of pandemic and the economic crisis, the DSWD confronts an enormous challenge of providing much-needed social services and social protection to the marginalized. Social welfare administration requires expertise that is nurtured by academic training and professional experience, as clearly stated in Republic Act No. 4373: An Act to Regulate the Practice of Social Work and the Operation of Social Work Agencies in the Philippines and for Other Purposes.
Let us go back to an incident where the newly designated secretary of DSWD was involved.
Last May 31, 2019, Mr. Erwin Tulfo lambasted DSWD Sec. Bautista for declining to grant him a live interview, arguing it was his obligation as secretary of the dept. “Sino ba itong buang na ito? Pasensya na muna ano ha. Maski tao ka ni Pangulong Duterte, le-lecture-an muna kita (Who is this crazy person? I apologize, but even if you were appointed by President Duterte, let me lecture you (Fonbuena, 2019). Tulfo’s rant included threats to slap Bautista if he ever saw him, and to dunk his head inside a toilet bowl (Fonbuena, 2019).
Several days after, Mr. Erwin Tulfo apologized to Sec. Baustista, vowing to tone down “Tulfo’s brand of journalism (CNN Philippines, 2019). The practice of journalism has its own recognized ethical norms and standards. Practitioners in this profession always uphold these at all times. Aside from the DSWD Chief, he also apologized to the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, who threatened to file libel and defamation charges against the broadcaster (CNN Philippines, 2019). A bully can only be contained by a force greater than him.
What is worrisome is the streak of arrogance and bullying exhibited by the Tulfo brothers, including Erwin Tulfo. This is about mindset. The Tulfo brothers had always been bullies, even challenging their perceived enemies to fistfights.
The appointment of a bully as head of the department is an act of political payback since the Tulfo brothers are closely allied with the Dutertes. Good governance is about to be thrown into the gutter. It is political loyalties again rather than upholding the best interest of the people. A bully has no space in a professional organization much less being its key leader.
As the country slowly recovers from the effects of the pandemic, social service delivery should be anchored on compassion and comprehensive understanding of the relevant policies, programs, services, protocols and mechanisms. Social welfare and development programs are beyond the realms of charity, whims or popularity. They are best administered by professionals who have extensive experience, possess appropriate technical knowledge and skills, and uphold the principles and values of social work and social development practice.
CNN Philippines. (2019). Broadcaster says sorry to DSWD secretary, vows to tone down “Tulfo’s brand of journalism. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/6/3/Erwin-Tulfo-DSWD-Secretary-Rolando-Bautista-apology.html
Fonbuena, Carmela. (2019). Soldiers seethe on line after Erwin Tulfo threatens to slap ex-Army chief. https://www.rappler.com/nation/231925-soldiers-seethe-online-after-erwin-tulfo-calls-ex-army-chief-crazy/
Department of Social Work
College of Social Work and Community Development