House green-lights bill institutionalizing 4Ps

Mara Cepeda
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program bill still has a long way to go, as its Senate version remains stuck at the committee level

HELPING THE POOR. Lawmakers want to institutionalize the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The bill seeking to institutionalize the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) was approved on 3rd and final reading at the House of Representatives. 

Lawmakers gave their nod to House Bill (HB) No. 7773 with a vote of 196-6-0 on Wednesday, August 29. The lower chamber approved the measure on 2nd reading on August 14. 

The measure, however, still has a long way to go before it can become a law. The Senate version of the bill remains pending with the committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development.

The 4Ps bill has to successfully go through another 3 readings at the Senate before the measure can be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

What are HB 7773’s salient provisions? Should HB 7773 become a law, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would be mandated to implement the conditional cash transfer program every year.

Funds would have to be allocated for 4Ps under the annual national budget until the program has covered 60% of the total number of “extremely poor households” in the country. 

The bill defines the poor as households whose income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic Development Authority and “cannot afford in a sustained manner to provide their minimum basic needs of food, health, education, housing, and other essential amenities in life.” 

The DSWD would still be tasked to select qualified household-beneficiaries using a standardized targeting system, subject to revalidation every 3 years. Coverage under the program is valid for 5 years. (READ: Where in the PH are the Pantawid beneficiaries?)

Qualified households would be given P2,200 monthly for health and education expenses for a maximum of 3 children, or the equivalent of P26,400 for each qualified household-beneficiary every year. 

What are the requirements to be 4Ps beneficiaries? To get the cash assistance, household-beneficiaries must meet the following conditions: 

  • Children aged 0 to 5 must receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccinations.
  • Children aged 1 to 18 must avail of deworming pills at least twice a year.
  • Children aged 3 to 4 must attend day care or pre-school classes at least 85% of the school year.
  • Children aged 5 to 18 must attend elementary or secondary classes at least 85% of the school year.
  • Pregnant women must avail of pre- and post-natal care as well as give birth with the assistance of a trained health care professional in a health facility.
  • At least one “responsible person” must attend family development sessions conducted by DSWD at least once a month.
  • At least one “responsible person” must either complete at least two skills training programs recognized by the government or be engaged in livelihood activities.

DSWD would also be mandated to provide beneficaries with “directed and secured” access to cash grants to any authorized government depositary banks (AGDB), rural, thrift, or cooperative banks for localities not adequately served by AGDBs, or institutions engaged in money remittances duly accredited by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

When was the 4Ps launched? The conditional cash transfer program was first introduced during the presidency of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was then continued by former president Benigno Aquino III.

Aquino then turned the 4Ps into his administration’s flagship anti-poverty program in 2008.

But the program has long been under scrutiny because of the huge annual budget allocations and the alleged flaws in the roster of beneficiaries. (READ: FACT CHECK: How 4Ps funds are paid out to beneficiaries)

In May, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol proposed scrapping 4Ps as it supposedly makes beneficiaries overly dependent on grants. (READ: [OPINION] Scrapping 4Ps program doesn’t make sense)

Piñol wants to divert funds to livelihood programs instead.

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Emmi de Jesus, however, voted ‘no’ to the bill. She said HB 7773 would lead to the “institutionalization of poverty.”

Kung totoong pantawid ito, dapat papaunti nang papaunti ang mag-aavail. Sa totoong buhay, graduate nga ng kolehiyo, pero walang trabaho. Sa usapin ng kalusugan, na isa sa mga kondisyon ng 4Ps, sa totoo lang eh binawasan pa nga ang budget para sa sektor ng kalusugan,” said De Jesus.

(If this is really about alleviating poverty, then the number of people availing it should be decreasing. But in reality, a person may have finished college, but he or she does not have a job. In terms of health, which is one of 4Ps’ conditions, the budget for the sector is being reduced.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.