MANILA, Philippines – It’s been called a “life-saver” to impoverished families but to former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and 2 barangay officials, the P21 billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program allocation in the 2011 national budget is an unconstitutional campaign and a “grave abuse of discretion of the Executive Department.”
In a 23-page petition for certiorari and prohibition filed before the Supreme Court last March 14, Pimentel, along with Sergio Tadeo, Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) president of Cabanatuan City, and Nelson Alcantara, barangay captain of Barangay Santa Monica, Quezon City, asked the Supreme Court to declare the CCT program unconstitutional and prevent the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa from implementing it.
For the first time in history, the DSWD will get its biggest budget of P32.2 billion because of the CCT – a direct cash subsidy to poor families aimed at poverty reduction, achieving universal primary education, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, and promotion of gender equality and women empowerment.
The program, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), provides conditional cash grants to poor households particularly those with pregnant women and children ages 0-14.
Under the program, a monthly stipend of up to P1,400 will be given to every family beneficiary which will be identified through a national household targeting system.
In their petition, Pimentel, et al, said the CCT program is tantamount to “recentralization of the already devolved functions” under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 and thus violates the provision of the Constitution that mandates the state to ensure the autonomy of local governments.
Pimentel is the principal author of the Local Government Code.
Petitioners stress they are not challenging the wisdom of the President and Congress to pursue their own version of CCTP in the Philippines – it being practiced in Latin American and Caribbean countries – but question the manner of its implementation through the DSWD.
Petitioners insist the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 “devolved the responsibility and functions of delivering social welfare, agriculture and health care services.”
“Instead of allocating the P21 billion budget directly to the LGUs to enhance the delivery of this devolved basic service, what we have is a recentralization of government functions by providing the DSWD, as the lead implementing agency of the CCTP, with the full control and not merely supervision over identification of the program beneficiaries and the manner by which the conditionalities for health care and social welfare and development services are to be delivered and complied with,” the petition read.
Petitioners alleged that the allocation of P2.3 billion for hiring and training of new personnel for the implementation of the program as provided for in the General Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2011 is a “telling sign” of the recentralization of the DSWD.
“Thus, by removing from the LGUs to some extent their control on how maternal health care, infancy nutrition and child welfare projects are promoted in their jurisdiction and then directing how these services are to be complied with following the CCTP operations manual of the DSWD, the national government has in fact encroached upon the local autonomy of the LGUs and instead recentralized the national government,” the petition read.
The CCT program has received flak from sectors who view it as a mere dole-out and “band aid solution” to the worsening poverty situation because of its short-term effects. –Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News