February 22, 2024 People's Journal 127 views

House leader: Senator Imee should explain her 4Ps budget realignment habit

How many poor beneficiaries were affected?

A ranking leader of the House of Representatives has asked Senator Imee Marcos to explain her actions on 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 2nd Districte Representative David “Jay-jay” C. Suarez said with Senator Marcos’ own admission of slashing the budget of the 4Ps program for the “poorest of the poor” under the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA), she should also answer allegations that she may have done it in previous years.

“Unang-una, I think the question is, dahil inamin ng ating mahal na senador na nagbawas syang pondo (para sa 4Ps), I think ang tanong is, ilang milyong Pilipino ang naapektuhan dahil dun sa pondong nawala?” Suarez said when asked by a reporter during a press conference.

“Ang mas malaking tanong, ilang milyong Pilipino at ilang households ang naapektuhan dahil nailipat ‘yung pera at mukhang hindi lang yata noong 2023 nangyari ito,” he added, saying he fears that budget realignments on the 4Ps have also happened in previous years.

Senator 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 in 2022.

“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,” Senator Marcos said.

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

“Wag natin kakalimutan, 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,” Suarez stressed.

This is why, he added, it is incumbent upon the House of Representatives in the exercise of its oversight functions to look into these budget realignments.

“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 kung ano ang naging epekto nito sa programa, number 1. (And) number 2, kung ilang milyong Pilipino at household ang naapektuhan sa (realignment ng pondo sa) programang ito,” Suarez explained.

Earlier, Assistant Minority Leader and 4PS Party-list Rep. JC Abalos II has appealed to Senator Marcos not to cut the budget of the 4Ps program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (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 napakahalaga po ng kanyang role,” Abalos said.

“2023 was a crucial year because if you look at the GAA, nagbayad din tayo sa utang natin sa mga 4Ps beneficiaries ng 2017 and 2018 … We do not want the same mistake of having delays in cash grants,” he added.

“I am just respectfully saying na eto po ang consequence ng pag slash ng P13 billion,” Abalos said.

He added that with the budget cut made by the Senate, there was considerable delay in giving the cash grant to the beneficiaries.