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Friday, June 14, 2024

Lawmaker says Imee initiated 4Ps budget cut

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Over 600,000 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) have not received their educational grants for 2023 due to significant budget cuts initiated by Senator Imee Marcos.

4PS Partylist Rep. Jonathan Clement Abalos further said: “We have already confirmed that last budget season, the sponsor [of the budget in the Senate] was cut P8 billion by the DSWD of Sen. [Imee] Marcos. And it wasn’t fair because the utilization rate at that time, allegedly was at 45 percent but we only considered half of the payment cycle.”

The Senate’s realignment of funds under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) budget has led to this shortfall, the lawmaker said.

This was disclosed during the hearing of the House Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano where DSWD representatives disclosed the need for P3.9 billion to cover the 2023 educational grants for 667,608 4Ps beneficiaries.

DSWD officials explained that the earlier projected deficit of P9.5 billion for the 2023 4Ps program—comprising P6.5 billion for educational grants and P3 billion for rice subsidies—was based on initial estimates, which have now been corrected with validated beneficiary data.

“So how can we serve our beneficiaries who have not received cash grants since last year since they were reassessed?” Abalos said.

At the time, Abalos noted that the DSWD was still validating the list of 4Ps beneficiaries and could only pay those who had been confirmed as qualified recipients of the educational grant.

Paduano, for his part, highlighted that the DSWD had promised stakeholders they would retroactively pay the qualified household beneficiaries once the list was validated.

“However, since the DSWD’s budget has been decreased, they could not fulfill this duty and promise unless we find solutions now,” he emphasized.

Aside from the P3.9 billion deficit for 2023, a projected P6.5 billion deficit for the 4Ps program is anticipated for 2024.

Anabelle Luna, vice president of Samahang Nagkakaisa ng Pamilyang Pantawid (SNPP) of Manila, shared that many 4Ps recipients face hardships due to the DSWD’s failure to deliver the educational grants.

“Bilang isang beneficiary po, malaking pangamba sa katulad ko na nagpapa-aral ng anak na hindi na po sa tama yung natatanggap sa schedule ng mga payouts. Parang suntok sa buwan kung meron bang laman ang aming mga cash card,” she expressed.

(As a beneficiary, it is indeed a cause for worry for someone like me who sends  a child to school whose supposed allowance through payouts is not received on time. It’s like punching the moon if our cash cards have any funds)

“Alam po namin na ito ay ayuda pero malaking bagay po ang magagawa nito na magiging tuntungan namin para naman hindi na kami manatiling mahirap,” Luna added.

(We know that this is a government aid. And it helps a lot to improve the quality of our lives and can get out from poverty)

A total of P13 billion was cut from the 4Ps program under the 2023 DSWD budget. However, Rep. Romeo Acop pointed out that the House did not propose any cuts to the DSWD budget during its deliberations.

“Tama po yun sir (that is correct sir), sa (in) GAB (General Appropriations Bill), sa GAB version that addresses our requirements,” confirmed DSWD Undersecretary Adonis Sulit.

To address the issue, DSWD Usec. Fatima Aliah Dimaporo informed the committee that the department has already written to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and is “hoping to hear from them soon.”

DBM officials are currently exploring whether there are remaining funds in the 2023 appropriations that could be used. If not, another option is to include the needed amount in the 2025 budget proposal for the DSWD.

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