MANILA, Philippines – Is President Benigno Aquino III’s flagship anti-poverty program as effective as he says it is?
Aquino’s allies in Congress will review the P39-B Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program ahead of the deliberations for the 2013 national budget.
In a statement, Sen Franklin Drilon said the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Public Expenditures will conduct the review.
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said the panel will check if the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has cleaned up the list of beneficiaries so that only the poorest families benefit from the CCT.
Drilon added that the probe aims to ensure that politicians will not be able to use the CCT budget for the 2013 polls.
“We would like to hear from Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman if her agency has successfully plugged in some of the loopholes that we and some concerned sectors have identified,” said Drilon.
Drilon and House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Rep Joseph Emilio Abaya have requested a briefing from the DSWD to be held on Thursday, July 12.
Drilon and Abaya head the joint oversight committee. Both are also partymates of Aquino in the ruling Liberal Party.
The senator said the committee wants to find out how much funds the government will allot for the CCT in the coming years to ensure its successful implementation.
In 2012, government allocated P39 billion for the program, up from P21 billion last year.
3 million families enrolled
Aquino is expected to cite the CCT as a key accomplishment of his administration in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) this July 23.
In a preview of his SONA, Aquino said in a speech last June 25 that the CCT has been successful in helping the 20% of the population living below the poverty line.
“We entered into office with 800,000 families enrolled [by the past administration]. Now, in March this year, there are already 3 million families enrolled, families we are helping so they can send their children to school and survive day-to-day life,” Aquino said in Filipino.
The President added, “This is an investment. This is not a dole-out. We are preparing this for the future to help our countrymen have additional opportunities in life.”
CCT, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is government’s flagship program for the poor. It provides cash grants to extremely poor households. For healthcare costs, each household gets P500 a month. For education, each child below 14-years-old gets P300 monthly.
The cash grants are tied to certain conditions. For example, parents should make sure that the children are going to school. Government believes that the CCT program will help the country meet human development goals on health and education.
Gamblers, drug users?
The Commission on Audit (COA), however, has reported about various loopholes in the CCT.
In its 2010 consolidated report, the COA said the program is a “big mess” with incomplete documentation on the use of the US-$405 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The COA noted that cash grants were released even to beneficiaries who failed to submit the required Compliance Verification System. COA also observed double or triple entries of names in the CCT list of beneficiaries.
“Occurrence of discrepancies in the names of grantees per payroll, per database, per clean list and per the [Land Bank of the Philippines’] liquidation report … cast doubts on the reliability and accuracy,” COA warned.
In another report, the COA said a random sampling in late 2010 showed that the CCT beneficiaries included gamblers, drug users and wealthy families.
Malacañang called the report unfair and said it made a blanket conclusion.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, though, gave assurances that the government continues to purge the CCT list. – Rappler.com
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