The Department of Social Welfare and Development will not file charges against the 1.3 million beneficiaries that might be delisted from the government’s cash assistance program.
DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo clarified Thursday the delisted beneficiaries would not be criminally liable just because they will no longer be eligible for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) benefits.
“They are not criminally liable because that would be unfair,” Tulfo said in a televised briefing.
“They have ‘graduated’ or they no longer meet the conditions for being poor. They cannot be charged just for that reason alone.”
Tulfo earlier said the department’s hotlines received complaints regarding “undeserving” 4Ps beneficiaries, prompting him to offer a P1,000 reward to those who would report such incidents.
But being disqualified from the program, he said, only means that their life got better, or they could now sustain themselves.
“Either the parents may have already found work, or they have their own small business already. Those are the qualifications so they could be removed from the poor category,” said Tulfo.
This developed as Sen. Risa Hontiveros advised the DSWD to go slow on its plan to remove some families from the 4Ps program.
“Let us be careful with this process. The DSWD should ensure that these 1.3 million families that would be removed indeed graduated,” said Hontiveros.
Tulfo said the government would be able to save P15 billion that could then be reallocated to other poor families who will be identified as eligible under the 4Ps.
The opposition senator said the list of beneficiaries should be updated since the information for this was collected in 2019 – and many Filipinos have lost their jobs and their savings consumed since.
Some of them, Hontiveros said, have been wanting money due to the increasing prices.
Once the list is confirmed and updated, she said the agency can then enlist new beneficiaries through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction or the “Listahanan” program.
Meanwhile, Tulfo said his department would look into its supposed failure to roll out nearly P2 billion worth of financial aid based on a Commission on Audit report.
The COA annual audit report flagged the agency for failing to distribute P1.9 billion of cash assistance under the Social Amelioration Program.
Tulfo confirmed that some P1.7 billion has been returned to the Bureau of Treasury.
“I will have this investigated. What happened? But initially, I received a report on this, and there seemed to be some confusion. It is so far unclear, but I will keep on investigating,” he said.
“The money has already been returned to the Bureau of Treasury. It was not lost, but it’s sad that this was not distributed to those who needed it,” Tulfo added.