Senators say they want to conduct a probe into the multi-billion-peso government dole called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) amid allegations that politicians are using cash payouts as an opportunity to campaign during this election season.
The call to probe the 4Ps seems particularly timely, given the approaching elections, but we suggest that an investigation is long overdue. After all, if we have been giving away billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money every year, it behooves us to know exactly what benefits we as a society derive from these doles.
Senator Panfilo Lacson says a performance audit should be conducted to determine what the program, which began as a temporary measure during the last two years of the Arroyo administration, has achieved so far.
Such an inquiry gains even more urgency, given the increasing budget being devoted to the 4Ps, which has grown from only P12 billion in 2010 to P88.1 billion in 2019.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, pointing to allegations of misuse of public funds, says an inquiry could rationalize the program’s operation.
The senators spoke out after the Department of the Interior and Local Government issued an order banning all local elective officials and politicians in general from attending payouts of national government programs and activities.
A DILG spokesman says the order is aimed at some politicians who have attempted to “hijack” the distribution of the cash doles, setting up campaign posters and giving speeches in distribution areas.
But these represent only the more blatant way that doles to the poor have been politicized. In fact, in might be argued that when then Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman set up the 4Ps during the Arroyo administration as a “temporary” program, its utility as a vote buying tool for the party in power was fairly obvious.
Regardless of the altruistic language in which the program is veiled, the 4Ps has continued over the years because the politicians in power see it as a way of currying favor from the masses, who can deliver the votes come election season.
They speak of the program’s success, yet there are no credible measures of the 4P’s success. The program itself is not set up to create jobs or encourage employment. In fact, the moment a beneficiary is employed, he or she may no longer be entitled to the monthly doles—certainly a disincentive for the poor to find work. The number of beneficiaries served is also meaningless, if all the program does is give them a monthly stipend that does nothing to measurably improve their productivity or enable them to contribute in a more meaningful way to society.
We trust that the senators will take this into consideration when they launch their inquiry into the 4Ps, instead of falling prey once again to motherhood statements about improving the lives of the poor.