By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, August 29 2018; Business Mirror


Image Credit to CNN Philippines

The House of Representatives on Wednesday endorsed for Senate approval three measures institutionalizing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), strengthening the Consumer Act of the Philippines and increasing the yearly service-incentive leave of employees.

Voting 196-6-0, lawmakers approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) 7773 institutionalizing the 4Ps and giving the poorest families cash grants up to a maximum of five years.

HB 7773 seeks to reduce poverty and promote human capital development in the country by breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty, promoting gender equality  and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education.

The 4Ps is a major anti-poverty program of the government that started during the term of former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to select qualified households on a nationwide basis using a standardized targeting system to conduct a revalidation of targeting of beneficiaries every three years.

The measure also mandates the provision of a lump-sum Conditional Cash Transfer to be received by each qualified household-beneficiary equivalent to P2,200 per month for health/nutrition and education expenses, or the equivalent of P26,400 per qualified household-beneficiary per year.

It also mandates DSWD to provide beneficiaries with direct and secured access to cash grants through any number of authorized government depository banks; and for localities not adequately served by AGDB, DSWD may contract the services of rural banks, thrift banks, cooperative banks and institutions engaged in money remittances duly accredited by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Under the bill, conditionalities of coverage by the program include:

Children aged 0 to 5 must receive regular preventive health checkups and vaccinations; children aged 1 to 18 must avail themselves of de-worming pills twice a year, children aged 3 to 4 must attend day care or preschool classes at least 85 percent of the time; pregnant women must avail themselves of prenatal and postnatal care and give birth with the assistance of a skilled or trained health-care professional in a health facility; at least one responsible person must attend the family-development session conducted by the DSWD, at least once a month; and  at least one responsible person must join and complete at least two government-recognized or accredited nongovernment organization-sponsored skills training programs or must be engaged in livelihood activities.

It also provides for a case-management system to be used to deal with beneficiaries’ noncompliance with set conditions.

The appropriation shall continue until the program has covered 60 percent of the total number of extremely poor households in the country, as may be determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority at the time of the enactment of the act.

The bill penalizes any person conspiring with public officials to receive the cash grant. The penalty is imprisonment of one month to six months, or a fine of P10,000 to P20,000, or both imprisonment and fine, at the discretion of the court.

Timbangan ng Bayan

Voting 199-0, the lower chamber also approved HB 7857, principally authored by Arroyo, which seeks to provide the establishment of a Timbangan ng Bayan Center in all public and private markets nationwide and penalize those who tamper weighing instruments after these are officially sealed.

Arroyo said the establishment of Timbangan ng Bayan Centers will provide the buying public with an effective means of checking the accuracy of the weight and the quantity of the goods that they are buying.

It  will also discourage dishonest vendors to commit any irregularity because of the imminence of getting caught in flagrante delicto, said Arroyo.

The bill will act as an amendment for a provision of the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

The bill also gives the supervision of the proposed weighing scales to the market supervisors, giving them the responsibility to keep record on the products being weighed.

The measure said Timbangan Ng Bayan scales will also be protected still by Chapter II Article 64 of the Consumers Act of the Philippines.

Under the bill, alteration, tampering, violation and destruction of Timbangan Ng Bayan by violators will be penalized with a fine of at least P50,000 to P300,000 or imprisonment of at least one year to five years depending on the court’s ruling.

It said violators for altering the official seal, sticker, paperworks and imitating Timbangan Ng Bayan Scales will be penalized with a fine of at least P50,000 to P300,000 or imprisonment of at least one year to five years upon the court’s ruling, which was an increase from the republic act’s penalizing of only at least P200 to P1,000 for the said violations.

According to the measure, the Department of Trade and Industry  and the Department of the Interior and Local Government  will execute and manage the project of Timbangan Ng Bayan scales with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Cities of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines and the appropriate stakeholders.

The funds necessary for the establishment and maintenance of Timbangan Ng Bayan Centers shall be charged against the internal revenue allotment and other funds of the local government unit concerned, the bill said.

Service incentive 

Also through 203-0 voting, a measure seeking to increase the yearly service-incentive leave of employees from five to 10 days has been approved at the House of Representatives.

HB 6770 seeks to boost the workers’ morale, wellness and productivity.

At present, Rep. Mark O. Go of Baguio City, principal author of the bill, said the Labor Code of the Philippines does not require employers to grant sick and vacation leaves, and what the law provides instead are service-incentive leaves.

He said these work incentives are given based on the prerogative of the employers, either by expressed stipulation on the employees’ contract or through collective bargaining agreement.

He added an employee who has rendered at least one year of service is entitled to a yearly service incentive leave of five days with pay. However, the same law provides that an employer who grants employees with a five-day vacation shall already be deemed compliant with the mandatory granting of the service-incentive leave.

The bill seeks to amend Article 95 of Presidential Decree 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The proposed amendment provides that every employee who has rendered at least one year of service shall be entitled to a yearly service- incentive leave of 10 days.

The provision shall not apply to those who are already enjoying such benefit, those enjoying vacation leave with pay of at least 10 days, and those in establishments regularly employing less than 10 employees or in establishments exempted from granting  this benefit by the labor  secretary after considering the viability or condition of such establishment.