By Maricel Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta, Rio N. Araja, August 24 2018; Manila Standard
A pro-administration lawmaker on Thursday supported the call to purge the list of beneficiaries for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the government’s platform for doles to poor families.
“I support the call for the government to purge the list of beneficiaries for its cash dole program, [to see] if this has really helped the poor or otherwise,” said Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers.
He said the 4Ps should be revisited to see if really helps its intended beneficiaries or if it just a cash cow being used by politicians.
Barbers said the 4Ps program entails billions of peso taxpayers’ money.“We must see to it that every centavo is given to the intended beneficiaries,” he added. Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III agreed.
“Why waste money on a project that does not make an impact on the poor?” Albano said.Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting, another administration ally, said it was necessary to weed out corruption in the government dole.
“I do agree we should work towards ridding the 4Ps system of corruption. We should make it an effective program for the benefit of the people. It should not be a source of kickbacks,” he said.
Barbers also rallied behind the call of Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy for the Department of Social Welfare and Development to file charges against any personnel found to be defrauding the government of funds from 4Ps.
“Charge everybody caught in this mess,” said Barbers.Dy earlier called for the purging of 4Ps’ list of beneficiaries, to exclude those who did not withdraw the funds waiting for them at the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Dy’s statement came after the Commission on Audit reported P10.76 billion in an unliquidated balance of fund transfers to the Land Bank; P5.385 billion in unclaimed cash grants for over-the-counter payments (2013 to 2017); P1.323 billion in account balances not withdrawn; and P1.2 billion in P1.89 million accounts with outstanding balances.
Dy said P15 billion in unliquidated or unclaimed grants if found to be part of a systematic scheme to siphon away government funds, would be plunder.
These calls came as the House is poised to pass on third and final reading a bill that would institutionalize the 4Ps cash dole, when Congress resumes its sessions on Aug. 28.
House Bill 7773 seeks “to end the cycle of inter-generational poverty” and improve the delivery of education, health, and nutrition to the poor.
The 4Ps bill also seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, empower women and girls and achieve gender equality, and capacitate those who cannot provide for themselves so that they become productive and be healthy members of society.
The 4Ps was introduced during the Arroyo administration and was carried over by the Aquino administration and continues up to the present.
HB 7773 defines the poor as those households whose income falls below the poverty threshold as determined by the National Economic and Development Authority and who cannot afford in a sustained manner to provide their minimum basic needs of food, health, education, housing, and other amenities.
Also on Thursday, Senator Joel Villanueva decried as “black propaganda” reports linking him to the “ghost scholars” anomaly at the state-run Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in 2015 and 2016.
In a text message to the Manila Standard, Villanueva said that while he was there during the training of Tesda’s scholars, no payments were made.
He noted that payments were made during the time of the agency’s interim head who replaced him after he resigned in October 2015 to run for the Senate.
The findings of the Commission on Audit, he said, will be among the issues he would raise during the Senate deliberations on the proposed budget of Tesda.
The COA has asked the DSWD to return the unclaimed funds intended for beneficiaries of the 4Ps.
“Failure to claim or collect the cash grants as soon as these are available for a long period of time and for no valid reason means that they don’t need them. Accordingly, these should rightfully be returned to the coffers of the government,” the agency said.
The audit agency chided the DSWD, saying the funds’ non-liquidation violated the memorandum of agreement signed between the DSWD and Land Bank, requiring the submission of liquidation documents within five working days from the last date of a scheduled payout.
“It is worthy to mention that the amount transferred is for immediaterelease to 4Ps beneficiaries to ensure that their immediate financial needs are addressed. The failure of Land Bank to release these benefits through the conduits… is tantamount to depriving them of the needed resources to get through their daily needs,” the COA said in its report.