MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers in the Lower House questioned the effectiveness of the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) at the budget hearing of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Wednesday, August 27.
Lawmakers, headed by Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab, grilled Social Welfare Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman on the effectiveness of the said program and its large budget.
First District of Sorsogon Representative Evelina Escudero asked the Secretary why the budget remained high despite a decline in the number of beneficiaries.
“Kung bumaba ang poverty level at bumawas ang beneficiaries, dapat may changes na rin sa budget,” she said.
(If the poverty level decrease and also the number of beneficiaries, then there should not be any increase in the budget.)
The DSWD's proposed budget for 2015 is P108.8 billion ($2.4 billion), or an almost 31% increase from this year's budget. It is the third-highest budget among all government agencies.
The department allocated the biggest portion of next year’s budget for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program with P64.7 billion ($1.48 billion)*, a P2.1 billion ($48 million) increase from 2014’s P62.6 billion.
Secretary Soliman said the need for a bigger budget stemmed from the expansion of the CCT program which now includes high school children, or up to 18 years old. Previously, only children under 14 years old were included in the program.
The department will also implement the new Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program that aims to help internally-displaced people or the homeless for 6 months.
A ‘failed’ program?
"GABRIELA Partylist Representative Emmi De Jesus called the program a “failure” for not alleviating poverty despite the 'growth' of the nation's economy"
Secretary Soliman cited the latest study of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that shows a decrease in poverty instances - which she said can be attributed partly to the 4Ps. In the report, 24.9% of Filipinos live below the poverty line of about $1.25 a day. (READ: PH poverty incidence on downward trend – NEDA)
“Ang layunin ng 4Ps naman talaga ay itigil ang kahirapan, hindi man ngayon kundi sa kinabukasan,” she explained. (The goal of 4Ps is to alleviate poverty, if not now then in the future.)
ANAKPAWIS Representative Fernando Hicap, meanwhile, pointed out the lack of uniformity in the basis of poverty instances in the country.
He mentioned the results of the latest nationwide survey of IBON Foundation which shows that self-rated poverty rose to 67% in 2014.
“Halos pitong taon na ang programa, bakit walang pagbabago?” he asked. “After high school, paano iyong trabaho nila?”
(It’s been almost 7 years since the program started, why is there no change? After high school, how will they find their jobs?)
According to the 2014 report of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the unemployment rate in the Philippines remains at 7% in 2013 despite the economic growth recognized in Southeast Asia.
Soliman explained that the main goal of the DSWD is to help the children go to school, become educated and ‘ready for the future’.
“Kung ang trabaho ay hindi nila maiintindihan, sila’y maapi,” the secretary emphasized. “Ang edukasyon talaga ang pinagpupuhunan.”
(They are helpless if they do not understand their jobs. We really need to invest in education.)
Under the 4Ps, each family beneficiary receives as much as P1,400 ($32) a month for the health and education needs of their children. Social workers regularly visit each family to make sure that they follow the conditions set by the program, which include requirements for children should to attend at least 85% of their classes, have regular health checkups, and that mothers avail of maternal services.
As of July 2014, at least 4 million families are under 4Ps with 73% located in rural areas. Almost 10 million beneficiaries are aged 3-18 year old. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.71
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.