Sen. Bongbong Marcos and House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora are right—the Aquino administration should make a complete accounting of the gargantuan fund given to the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“It (the CCT program) provides temporary relief for millions of families, but it does not provide them what they really need: real jobs . . . paying and self-sustaining jobs that will enable them to have a decent future,” Zamora said.
Congress should make sure that the CCT is implemented to reduce poverty and not to fatten the pork of Malacanang and its allies. Are the country’s poor merely being used to further some hidden political and financial agenda? Congress should find out, and if the administration has nothing to hide, then it should cooperate fully with the probe sought by Marcos and Zamora.
In his State of the Nation Address, President Aquino cited data from the National Economic Development Authority showing that poverty rate had gone down from 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012 to 24.9 percent in the same period of 2013. The 3 percent is equivalent to 2.5 million Filipinos who have crossed the poverty line, he said. This claim needs validation and an honest-to-goodness congressional inquiry is needed for doing so.
“We will continue to support 4.4 million poor households under the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program with an allocation of P64.7 billion. The DSWD has committed that by 2015, about 50 percent or 2 million families under the CCT program will be uplifted from survival to subsistence, and another 6 percent or 300,000 families will transition from subsistence to self-sufficiency,” he declared in his SONA.
If the CCT, once called “Dinky’s dole-out” by Sen. Chiz Escudero, is really succeeding, then its huge budget should be supported. Also, how would the increase in dole-outs fly with this statement of the President: “Give a man fish and he will have food to eat for one day. Teach him how to fish and he will have food to eat for a lifetime.”
Too, how come surveys by poll outfits show that the number of self-rated poor has even increased? Aquino’s claim that the CCT had rescued 2.5 million Filipinos from extreme poverty was based on the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) data comparing 2013 and 2012 that showed 24.9 percent of the population were considered poor compared to 27.9 percent a year earlier.
The NSCB’s said in its website that it computed the latest poverty figures using for the first time, “income data from the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS). Previous reports were based on the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted triennially.”
How come the number of school drop-outs hasn’t decreased? Thankfully, there has been general satisfaction on the delivery of health services to CCT beneficiaries. But, is this success in health services enough to make the CCT a complete success?
Our part-time family driver living in a squatters’ area near Philcoa in Quezon City once told me that his wife hadn’t received her monthly assistance from CCT for more than four months. A lady farmer from my barangay in Lupao, Nueva Ecija said she hadn’t received any for eight months. She said many others in our town had failed to receive their CCT for the same period.
The reason for the suspension was ostensibly for a change in the transfer of money to the ATM. This took several months? What happened to the unremitted funds? Were they classified as “savings.” How about the interest earned during the suspension of payments to presumably thousands of beneficiaries? I learned that when the CCT assistance was resumed after four months or more, it did not tally with the amounts beneficiaries should have received if the remittance were not suspended. The House and Senate inquiry should look into this because the CCT program is fully funded for the entire year.
A beneficiary also told me that her CCT assistance was often subjected to deductions. She said she had attended all meetings and had been going to the health center as required so there should be no reason why she should get less than P1,400. She added that there were others who also suffered from this unexplained deductions.
By the end of 2015, almost P347 billion would have been allotted for this program and the administration owes it to the people to be transparent on how the fund is used, including its administration costs. If the House and Senate inquiry will show that the CCT is merely using the country’s poor as an excuse to line some officials’ pockets or to further political ends, then it’s a poor program and it should go.