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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Solon chides Imee over 4Ps realignments

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A House leader yesterday raised concerns over the realignment of some P13-billion allocation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) last year to other social amelioration programs that deprived nearly 900,000 families, or 4.3 million Filipinos, of aid.

Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. David Suarez said that with Senator Imee Marcos admitting that she slashed the budget of the 4Ps programintended for the poorest of the poor, previous realignments initiatedby the senator should be reviewed in view of the millions of affected beneficiaries.

“The bigger question is how many millions of Filipinos and households were affected because of her realignment? And it appears this did not happen in 2023 alone,” he said.

Marcos, in a statement, admitted to recommending some P8 billion in 4Ps funding be realigned to other DSWD programs such as the supplemental feeding, KALAHI-CIDSS, Quick Response Fund for disasters, and AICS during the deliberations of the 2023 national budget.

“The P5-billion AICS reduction, on the other hand, occurred after I had recommended the amount in the Senate version, but the bicameral removed it for lack of fiscal space post-COVID. Those two amounts–P8 billion plus P5 billion—are perhaps what some befuddled members are referring to,” she said.

But Suarez argued the 4Ps program is not just some government aid project that lawmakers can tinker with as it is based on a law, Republic Act No. 11310 or the 4Ps Act.

“Let’s not forget that 4Ps is a law. It’s not just a regular program, it’s not just a project that comes and goes. It’s a law. It has specific beneficiaries. It has specific objectives and therefore the funding has to be secured to support the intent of the program,” he said.

“Now of course, with this revelation that we found out a few days ago, I think it is incumbent upon the House to find out how this affected the program and how many millions of Filipinos and households were affected,” Suarez added.

For his part, Deputy Majority Leader and Tingog party-list Rep. Jude Acidre said Marcos should be accountable to her constituents for the 4Ps budget cut.

“I don’t think the accountability of Senator Marcos is simply by admitting that she was the one who removed that from the budget during the bicam. I think her accountability to her constituents is to also explain to them where the money went,” Acidre said.

It was Ako Bicol Rep. Jil Bongalon, a vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, who revealed that nearly 900,000 households or 4.3 million Filipinos who are among the poorest of the poor did not receive cash grants because of the realignment.

Bongalon said the P13-billion budget realignment may be just the “tip of the iceberg.”

“I understand that Senator Imee has been realigning significant portions of the 4Ps budget every year since 2021 but we’re still compiling the data,” he added.

Earlier, Assistant Minority Leader and 4PS party-list Rep. JC Abalos

II appealed to Marcos not to cut the budget of the 4Ps program under the DSWD again.

“I would like to respectfully appeal to my fellow lawmakers, particularly to the members of the upper House. Senator Imee happens to be the chairperson and sponsor of the DSWD so her role is very important…We do not want the same mistake of having delays in cash grants,” he said.

“I am just respectfully saying this was the consequence of slashing P13 billion from the 4Ps allocation,” Abalos added.

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