SOCIAL Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman admitted Friday that recipients of government doles can suffer deductions from their stipends if they do not meet the 4Ps conditions, but denied that this was used to coerce them into joining nationwide rallies in support of administration candidate for president Manuel Roxas II.
Under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the government’s dole program, beneficiaries can be penalized for failing to attend “Family Development Sessions [FDS],” Soliman said.
Soliman was responding to accusations that the Liberal Party was using the 4Ps to drum up a show of support for Roxas, who has been on the tail end of most opinion surveys.
Some beneficiaries said they were told if they did not attend the “unity walk” for Roxas, they would get deductions from their stipends.
But Soliman said since the 4Ps is a conditional cash transfer program, beneficiaries are subject to penalties should they fail to meet the program requirements: check-ups for pregnant women and children aged zero to five, deworming of schoolchildren aged six to 14, enrollment of children in daycare, elementary and secondary schools, and attendance at the monthly FDS.
Leftist groups said Thursday the rally was being passed off as an FDS.
But Soliman denied the Department of Social Welfare and Development coerced beneficiaries to attend the pro-Roxas rallies, which advocated the legislation of the CCT under the next administration.
“As far as I understand, civil society organizations organized the event and we had nothing to do with it. We did not organize it,” Soliman said.
She did not say how the organizations were able to get a list of the 4Ps beneficiaries, however.
On Thursday, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan claimed that the beneficiaries of the government’s flagship poverty reduction program were threatened with a P500 deduction of their monthly support should they fail to attend the “unity walk” in Luneta.
“We have received information that CCT-4P’s members in Manila are being required to attend a “unity walk” for Mar Roxas in Luneta tomorrow under the guise of the monthly Family Development Session of the 4Ps. The event is being billed as a unity walk to push for the legislation of the 4P’s,” Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general said.
On Friday morning, beneficiaries of the government’s dole program across the country marched to major streets advocating for the legislation of a law for the CCT.
Wearing white shirts and carrying banners, the beneficiaries said they were told that attendance was compulsory.
Another beneficiary said if they failed to attend, they would be removed from the 4Ps.
Lito Villocero, a 4Ps beneficiary, said on his Facebook page that he even had texts to prove that they were told that attendance was compulsory.
Soliman also scored opposition candidate for president, Vice President Jejomar Binay, for claiming that the unity walk was a tool to promote Roxas’ candidacy.
“Isn’t he the one who is saying that he will expand it to 5Ps? Who is saying that they’re notusing Pantawid? They’re all using Pantawid,” Soliman said. “He even advertised it on TV.”
In a speech at the Club Filipino on Thursday, Soliman hit the rivals of the ruling party with their flip-flopping of support for the dole program, pointing out that Roxas and Robredo’s rivals—once staunch critics of the program—immediately changed tune when the survey came out showing that most Filipinos favored the 4Ps.
“Many promise to continue the 4Ps. Who are they? These are the critics, those who don’t understand... they said Pantawid is alms,” Soliman said.
A recent survey revealed that majority of Filipinos—about 80 percent—would vote for a candidate who promises to continue 4Ps.
All presidential aspirants vow they will continue or expand the 4Ps program.
“All of them are promising that Pantawid will be continued. All of them are promising that they will be continuing Pantawid and are saying they will continue but only Mar Roxas has concrete plans of doing so,” Soliman told The Standard.
“Pantawid has made it where it’s now because of the people themselves. Of course with the help of the Aquino government. Let’s not insult the people. They know how to vote,” she added.
The House of Representatives, voting 127-8, has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to institutionalize the 4Ps.
The approved measure, House Bill No. 6393, was endorsed for plenary approval by the House Committees on Poverty Alleviation and Appropriations.
On Wednesday, senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez called for a growth that is inclusive, not one that widens the gap between the rich and the poor.
The Leyte lawmaker issued the call following the release of data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showing that the income growth of the richest Filipinos, or those at the top 10 percent of the income bracket, was 11.35 times more than that earned by the poorest, or the bottom 10 percent.
“We must reduce income inequality in this country and accelerate poverty reduction as part of sustainable development efforts,” Romualdez said.
“The next administration should hit the ground running and strive to create and more jobs in the next six years,” he said.
The National Economic and Development Authority earlier reported improvements in poverty reduction nationwide to 26.3 percent in the first semester of 2015 from 27.9 percent in the same period of 2012.
Neda attributed the expansion largely to the government’s social services spending, most notably the CCT.
Romualdez vowed to continue the CCT program to help the poorest of the poor cope with daily survival, but stressed that creating employment should go hand-in-hand with the dole program.
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