The conditional cash transfer or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the government’s centerpiece program to address poverty, has been lauded by various sectors because of the social and economic benefits reaped by its beneficiaries.
However, there have been reports that a number of beneficiaries have been pawning their Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards to loan sharks in their desire to get their cash stipends early.
Some beneficiaries said they resorted to pawning their ATMs because of their immediate need for cash to buy medicines or food.
The 4Ps is defined by the government as a human development measure that provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children aged 0 to18.
The Manila Times tried to collate cases of ATM pawning from regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and to date, in the Bicol region, one household was delisted while the benefits of 42 households were put on hold for either pawning their ATM cards or gambling.
In March 2015, Bacolod reported 60 cases of households who pawned their cards. Two years ago, there were 10 reported cases in Iloilo.
In Pampanga, the DSWD reported that 147 households were found to have pawned their cards and 10 of these have been suspended for two months.
The beneficiaries are aware of the consequences of their act, as DSWD continues its information dissemination campaigns on the program as well as regular monitoring on the ground.
Maria, a 41-year-old 4Ps beneficiary in Barangay Mayao Crossing in Lucena City in Quezon Province, has eight children and three of them are 4Ps beneficiaries, one is now in secondary school.
She admitted that she was forced, once, to pawn her ATM card because one of her children was sick and she had to buy medicines.
“I just pawned my ATM for a few days,” she added, claiming she is aware that pawning 4Ps ATM cards is illegal and she could be delisted, if not suspended.
But the cases of beneficiaries using ATM cards for additional cards may be under-reported.
Officials of the DSWD in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are aware that some beneficiaries are pawning their cards to get cash advances.
“We are aware of this practice by some [4Ps] beneficiaries. Admittedly, that’s very difficult to prevent,” said ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, concurrent DSWD regional secretary, told The Manila Times.
In Cavite, Gil Garcia, 4Ps Provincial Grievance Officer, said there are some beneficiaries who engaged in a similar practice with some seeking the assistance of loan sharks. There were no figures provided by the Cavite office.
These money lenders, who earn a margin of at least P1,000 per transaction, lend their clients up to P5,000 but they pay back P6,000.
Garcia said they are monitoring the beneficiaries as they do not tolerate such practice.
In Bicol Region, Generoso Butial, who was once engaged in money lending admitted that his regular customers were 4Ps members who used their ATM cards as collateral.
The government releases money to 4Ps beneficiaries once every two months.
In Bataan, Social Welfare Officer III Cindy Pineda said some beneficiaries are also into gambling.
“We have coordinated with barangay officials who know better the activities of recipients of the program to put a stop to gambling activities,” she said.
On the pawning of cash cards, Pineda said of the 11,699 members with cash cards, only 11 cases were reported because other beneficiaries are given cash.
The DSWD in Central Luzon has noted 147 cases of pawning but Regional Director Gemma Gabuya said there may be more cases. She said beneficiaries receive a verbal warning for the first offense, suspension of benefits for the second offense and termination for the third offense.