Improving the system of granting aid to poor Filipinos through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will prevent several instances of non-payment and underpayment of beneficiaries and double entries and inaccuracies on the list of beneficiaries, according to the Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
“The help is not going to our poor countrymen on time or not at all based on a Commission on Audit [COA] report for 2014. The Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD] has not solved the problems in the system,” Joey Salgado, spokesman on media affairs for the Office of the Vice President.
The 4Ps, or the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, was allocated P62.6 billion in 2014 and P62.3 billion this year.
Last year, the national government transferred P15.323 billion to the Land Bank of the Philippines for over-the-counter (OTC) payment of cash stipends to qualified families in eight regions.
COA, however, said only P13.725 billion was used.
Salgado noted this means that P1.598 billion did not reach poor households as intended.
He said the delay is “inexcusable” specially after it was reported that a man stabbed himself in the chest while waiting for financial aid through the 4Ps of the DSWD in Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, last September 24.
The 39-year-old man, whose identity was withheld by the police, was relying on the aid from 4Ps for his sickly nine-month old son.
He barely slept for five days as he took care of his son, police said.
Fortunately, the man survived.
Reportedly feeling helpless and frustrated, he stabbed himself with a 27-centimeter (10.6-inch) knife inside the house of Siayan Councilor Norma Labastida around 2 a.m. on September 24.
Labastida, who found the man on the floor with a stab wound on his right chest, immediately called the police, Insp. Dahlan Samuddin, acting public information officer of Police Regional Office 9, said.
Samuddin added that the father and son were staying temporarily at Labastida’s home to wait for the cash handout.
Salgado said, “If the government is indeed providing help to the Filipinos, if our economy is indeed growing and opening job opportunities for our countrymen, if help is indeed going to the intended beneficiaries, we would not have a fellow Filipino losing hope and attempting to kill himself out of frustration and hopelessness. The system has to be reviewed to ensure all who need the help will get the assistance they deserve from their government. That is what the Vice President wants to do.”
Salgado noted that eight years into the implementation of the 4Ps, the government’s flagship anti-poverty program, the DWSD is yet to correct problems in the system.
In its 2014 Consolidated Audit Report on Official Development Assistance (ODA) Programs and Projects released last September 4, COA said “recurring deficiencies” such as inaccuracies on the list of beneficiaries, distribution gridlocks, non-receipt or underpayments, non-compliance with requirements and verification issues.
It added that implementation of the program should be monitored continuously and improved after regular assessment to “ensure efficient fund utilization and timely delivery of assistance to various beneficiaries.”
COA reported 1,872 cases of double entries.
It also reported uncollected fees by 6,687 beneficiaries, and 7,613 complaints of lack of payment or underpayment even though the beneficiaries had compliance certificates.
In Region 6, COA said, 4,445 4Ps qualified beneficiaries were given “deficient” cash grants for November to December last year because of a delay in updating the database.
There were also 7,613 complaints on non-receipt or under payment despite certification of full compliance with requirements, the agency added.
“Non-submission or much delayed submission of disbursement vouchers [render]doubtful the validity of claims,” COA said.
Salgado said, “The 4Ps is supposed to provide cash grants to the poorest of the poor and to help those in need improve their health and ensure the education of children aged 0-18.
But with the DSWD’s failure to implement the program efficiently, the government has not gotten near to fulfilling its ‘commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, and in improving maternal health care.’”