Not in aid for election

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

The well-intentioned ayuda of the government that targets to tide over inflation-impacted middle income families will remain under a cloud of uncertainty without an enabling law. In particular, this will be the fate of the P26.7-billion Ayuda para sa Kapos ang Kita Program (AKKAP) that has become the bone of contention of lawmakers feuding over alleged use of the newest ayuda program of the government to push Charter change (Cha-cha).

At the outset though, party-list representative of the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Erwin Tulfo strongly refuted anew suspicions raised on the “special provision” allocated for AKKAP in the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA). Tulfo reiterated the AKKAP is his “brainchild” while he was still the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Tulfo was first appointed in June 2022 by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM). At that time, Tulfo recalled the new administration was still grappling with the inflation problems due to the rising prices of rice, gasoline and other fuel products. Speaking in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday, Tulfo was disappointed that AKKAP got dragged into the Cha-cha controversy even before it could be implemented.

As the lead agency of government for AKKAP, DSWD has yet to come out with its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) as required by the “special provision” in the 2024 GAA.

Senators led by PBBM’s eldest sister Sen. Imee accused their House counterparts as being behind the alleged “insertion” of AKKAP in the 2024 GAA. Sen. Imee suspects the AKKAP was apparently “inserted” at the level of the bicameral conference committee (bicam) that reconciled the Senate and the House versions of the annual budget for the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

The middle income families, not just the low-income households, were likewise reeling from the impact of inflation, Tulfo pointed out. At least in the situation of the so-called “poorest of the poor,” Tulfo cited, the DSWD provides them monthly cash subsidy under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, as well as the other ayuda at the disposal of the agency on Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program.

So how can AKKAP be allegedly used, or intended for the PI signature drive, when it was started way before any Cha-cha bill got filed in the 19th Congress, Tulfo rhetorically asked.

“It’s politics, election is near. I hope they will not use AKKAP in politics because that is for the people,” Tulfo urged.

But among the AKKAP and other ayuda programs of the DSWD, Tulfo cited, it is only the 4Ps that was institutionalized through an enabling law. It was former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who signed into law the 4Ps Act under Republic Act (RA) 11310 that mandated the DSWD, among other things, to provide for a fixed amount of cash grants to the identified “poorest of the poor” households all over the country as direct beneficiaries with monthly cash subsidy.

Thus, Tulfo vowed to author an enabling law for the AKKAP that will target those classified as “near poor,” or those receiving less than P23,000 monthly salary. Tulfo noted with deep concern the ranks of these “near poor” households swelled since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020.

The youngest of the Tulfo brothers, Congressman Tulfo hopes his older brother Sen. Raffy and the rest of their fellow lawmakers at the 19th Congress will support passing a law for AKKAP.

Tulfo disclosed it was he who recommended to Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez to push the AKKAP by providing budgetary support while the 19th Congress was still deliberating last year the proposed 2024 GAA bill at the Lower House. Sen. Imee Marcos, however, claimed the ayuda programs of the DSWD were deceptively used in the nationwide signature gathering for the people’s initiative (PI) calling for Cha-cha.

However, DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian immediately insisted no ayuda programs of his agency were touched for the PI. As the chairperson of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, Sen. Imee conducted public hearings to look into these allegations despite denials earlier made by the DSWD secretary.

Congressman Jonathan Clement “JC” Abalos II of Pagtibayin at Palaguin ang Pangkabuhayang Pilipino, or 4PS party-list, deplored Sen. Imee’s accusations after no solid proof or evidence was presented during the past four public hearings done by her committee. Taking up the cudgels for the 4Ps beneficiaries during the same Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum, Abalos turned the tables on Sen. Imee, who confirmed having agreed to re-align the unused budget for 4Ps rather than have it revert back to the National Treasury as required in budget laws.

Abalos disclosed he will initiate an inquiry in aid of legislation on the House committee on appropriations review that Sen. Imee realigned the 4Ps funding of P13 billion in the 2023 national budget to the AICs. As the voice of the 4Ps beneficiaries, Abalos estimated nearly 4.3 million poor Filipinos were deprived last year of this cash aid from the DSWD due to the resulting “budget deficit” of P9 billion for this ayuda program.

The 4Ps law provides qualified families with: P300 cash grant a month for each child enrolled in a daycare or elementary school; P500 a month for each child enrolled in junior high school and P700 for each child enrolled in senior high schools. Each beneficiary household also receives P750 a month in health and nutrition subsidy and rice subsidy amounting to P600.

Tulfo confirmed there was under-spending in the 4Ps that resulted to the “clean-up” of 4Ps beneficiaries that he did during his six months in office as DSWD secretary. Upon the “clean-up” instruction of PBBM, Tulfo recalled, as many as 900,000 were considered “graduates” from the 4Ps. But when the pandemic struck, he rued, many of these 4Ps households suffered job losses and diminution of income.

The clean-up dubbed as “Listahanan,” a poverty database program created by DSWD and the Philippine Statistics Administration (PSA), Tulfo pointed out, enabled the government to find and identify poor families deserving of 4Ps help.

Hopefully, the DSWD completes this clean-up of the list to ensure our taxpayers’ money go to its intended beneficiaries, not in aid of election of politicians.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with