AROUND 1.3 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have “graduated” or transitioned from poor to non-poor status, according to an official of the department.
They will be transferred to the department’s transitioning program, a new program launched to prevent 4Ps graduates from regressing back to poor status.
“At this point… bagamat sila ay nagtransition [while they have transitioned], ito ay unstable [the transition is unstable]. Ibig sabihin magkaroon lang ng economic shocks, magkaroon lang ng disaster, pwede silang magslide back [this means that should there be economic shocks, should a disaster strike, they could slide back],” DSWD Assistant Secretary Maria Lourdes Turalde told The Manila Times.
“So paano sila nakatawid [so how could they transition]? Ito ‘yung gustong malaman ng next administration [this is what the next administration wants to find out],” she said.
DSWD has reported that almost 70,000 of those who have transitioned are still at risk of reverting back to their former poor status. The figure is around 4.5 percent of the overall families enrolled in the program.
In light of the said concern, the DSWD came up with a transitioning program as part of its long-term goal.
“‘Yun ‘yung consideration ngayon ng new administration na gumawa ng malaking hakbang na maging self-sufficient, self-reliant itong mga pamilyang ito. Na sila ay hindi lang makatawid, makatindig sa kanilang sariling paa [that is the consideration now of the new administration: to undertake steps to make these families self-sufficient, self-reliant. That they are not only able to transition, they are able to stand on their own feet],” Turalde said.
The transitioning program, however, has yet to be implemented pending reforms in the 4Ps.
“Hindi pa siya naiimplement. Yan ay pag-aaralan. Pag-aaralan nang mabilis yung paano gagawin. Kasi meron din siyang mga implication sa mga susunod na hakbang [It is not yet implemented. It is still subject to studies. How it will be implemented will be studied quickly. Because it also has implications on the next steps to be undertaken],” the DSWD official said.
Human development measure
DSWD’s 4Ps is a human development measure geared towards assisting households, classified as belonging to the poorest of the poor, to meet daily needs.
It is implemented in 79 provinces, 143 cities, and 1,484 municipalities in all 17 regions of the country.
The beneficiaries are selected through a national household assessment which identifies the poorest families in the country.
The 4Ps is patterned after the conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs of Latin American and African countries.
“Isa siyang social protection program for the poor kung saan ‘yung pagbibigay ng cash o ng grant ay conditional. Kaya nga conditional cash transfer [It is a social protection program for the poor wherein the provision of cash grants is conditional. That is why it is called conditional cash transfer],” Turalde explained.
“Ibig sabihin ‘yung grant ay ilalaan mo sa pag-aaral o dapat ikaw ay nagpapakonsulta sa health center [This means that the grant will be used for education or consultations in a health center],” she said.
The 4Ps provides cash grants to the poorest families in the country, earmarked for the improvement of health, nutrition, and children’s education who are aged 0 to 18 years old.
Some of the objectives also include health check ups for pregnant women and children under five years old, deworming of schoolchidren from six to 14 years old, and enrollment of chidren in primary, elementary and secondary schools.
It was implemented in 2009 during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and strengthened during former President Benigno Aquino’ 3rd’s administration.
“In-implement ‘yan ni GMA pero hindi pa ‘yan ganoon ka-massive. Noong panahon ni Noynoy, ni President Aquino, doon siya naging massive na umabot ‘yan sa 4.4 million [It was implemented by GMA but it was not yet as massive. During the time of President Aquino, that was when is became massive with the number of beneficiaries reaching 4.4 million],” Turalde said.
Under the 4Ps, a beneficiary family receives a monthly allowance of P500 to sustain its health needs, an education grant of P300 for elementary students, and P500 for highschool students. A maximum of three children are entitled to an educational grant.
In return for receiving the cited grants, families enrolled in the said program are mandated to attend the department’s Family Development Sessions (FDS), to inform families on how the program could effectively help them in overcoming their poor status.
The FDS also aims to instruct the families on their roles as beneficiaries of the program.
Not a poverty reduction poverty
Turalde belied rumors that the 4Ps is a poverty reduction strategy.
“Ngayon inaattribute nila na hindi effective ang 4Ps kasi hindi niya napababa ang kahirapan [4Ps is being deemed as ineffective because it didn’t reduce poverty incidences],” Turalde lamented. “Wala tayong ganung ilusyon [we do not harbor such illusion].”
She clarified that it is a social protection strategy, an investment in human capital.
“Investment sa human capital in the form of health and education… ang kanilang theory diyan na kapag nakapagtapos ‘yan ng pag-aaral at malusog, ito yung magiging productive na myembro ng pamilya [The theory is when a student finishes school and healthy, he will be a productive member of the family],” Turalde explained.
According to Turalde, the program aims to enable poor families to break an inter-generational cycle of poverty.
“Kasi siyempre kapag anak ka ng mahirap, malamang sa malamang eh ‘di magiging mahirap ka rin [Because it is believed that if you come from a poor family, chances are you will also become poor]… So [the 4Ps is an]investment in human capital,” she noted.
The 4Ps also helps the country fulfill its commitment to the Milennium Development Goal (MDG) in eradicating severe poverty by achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health care.
Turalde noted that the DSWD has created a team devoted to visiting beneficiaries to find out who are still poor, non-poor, and who are not really poor.
“And we also want to find out their vulnerabilities kasi doon nila ikina-craft ‘yung transitioning strategy [because that is how they craft transitioning strategies]… It’s our interest to help this household, this family to become self-sufficient and self-reliant,” she said.
Rice vs cash
The DSWD is open to any suggestions on the implementation of the 4Ps but all of these shall be subject to further studies, Turalde noted, referring to Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice’s suggestion for the provision of additional cash assistance instead of the provision of additional 20 kilos of rice as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte during his first state of the nation address.
“Kasi ang gusto ni president, physical talaga—bigas [Because the president wants the assistance to be in physical form — rice],” Turalde said, but cleared that it needs further review.
“So ang aming sagot diyan, aaralin yan. Kaya may tinitingnan na modalities. Nakikipag usap na [kami]sa iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno [So our answer to that is that we will study the proposal. That is why we are looking into modalities. We are talking to other government agencies],” Turalde noted.
According to her, the DSWD is currently coordinating with the Department of Agriculture, National Food Authority, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission to see if the distribution of additional rice allowance could be extended to millions of beneficiaries.
“In fact, isa sa mga undersecretaries ng DSWD ang mamumuno para pag-aralan ang rice distribution—kung paano mo gagawin at anong mekanismo niyan [In fact, one of the undersecretaries of the DSWD is leading the studies on rice distribution — how it will be done and using which mechanisms]. Massive ‘yan eh [that is massive], we’re talking of 4.4 million families,” she stressed.
Unliquidated 4Ps accounts
Lawmakers recently grilled DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo during the appropriations hearing of the department due to the existence of several CCT accounts that remain unliquidated and unmoved.
According to a report sent by the department to House appropriations committee chairperson Rep. Karlo Nograles, 386,435 CCT accounts in the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) were tagged as non-moving.
Meanwhile, 271,948 accounts did not receive any grant.
Also, 260,343 accounts opened from 2008 to 2014 were recommended for closure while 798 accounts were already closed pursuant to requests from DSWD regional offices.
Meanwhile, 41,899 cash cards have records of movement through withdrawals and 50,800 accounts are either up for deactivation or pertain to delisted households.
“Ang pera sa totoo lang ay hawak ng Landbank. Dina-download ‘yan ng Department of Budget and Management sa Land Bank. Syempre ang DSWD, kami naman ay we’re committing ourselves na talagang ayusin ang programa [the money, in reality, is held by Landbank. The Department of Budget and Management deposits it to Landbank. Of course we in the DSWD are committed to really fixing the program],” Turalde noted.
She said the DSWD is currently investigating unliquidated CCT grants.
She said that some ineligible families are able to receive assistance under the program. Turalde said this is also being investigated.
The DSWD official said the department will not accept additional beneficiaries as the it is prioritizing addressing deficiencies in the program.
“Kung seryoso tayo sa pagsugpo sa kahirapan, sa usapin ng assessment of reforms, titingnan ‘yan sa mas malaking aspeto na kailangan natin ng pambansang industriya na lilikha ng jobs. Kasi ito ang pinag-uugatan ng kahirapan. Kailangang tingnan ang pag-address ng poverty [If we’re serious in eradicating poverty, in assessing reforms, we have to look at the bigger picture that we need national industries to create jobs. Because this (the absence of national industries) is the root of poverty. This has to be looked into in addressing poverty],” Turalde said.