Saturday, December 22, 2012

4P's - Facts and Issues


     The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P's) is a poverty reduction strategy that provides grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14. This anti-poverty program aims to: 

                              (A) Reduce extreme hunger and poverty. 
                              (B) Achieve universal primary education. 
                              (C) Promote gender equality and empowerment of women.
                              (D) Reduce child mortality. 
                              (E) Improve maternal health.

Sometimes cash is not enough. Photo:Gutierrez

    It is the Filipino version of the World Bank-funded Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program where poor families receive cash provided their children regularly goes to public school at least 85% of the time, visits the health center for regular medical checkups and treatments. Conceiving mothers also receive financial grants provided they regularly undergo medical checkups and standard pregnancy treatments. Parents must attend responsible parenthood seminars, mother's classes, and parent effectiveness seminars.


        A household-beneficiary can receive as much as P1,400 monthly, which includes P500 per month for nutrition and health expenses and P300 per month per child (with a maximum of 3 children per household) for educational expenses. Household-beneficiaries must comply with certain conditions to continue receiving the cash grants, which could go on for a maximum of five years. 

A Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4P’s beneficiary
from Toboso receives her conditional cash grant
from a Land Bank representative

     However, the program like any other, have loopholes. According to a veteran journalist, the financial assistance received from some beneficiaries are always several hundred pesos less, and worse, the 4P's is always late, at times by as much as three months. The only information they get about the status of the program is that there is no more budget for it. But the poor folks can’t complain as they are afraid of being stricken off the list.  Whereas the Department of Social Welfare and Development is also rolling out a media campaign to inform the public that no local politician has the authority to add or delist CCT beneficiaries. 

     In addition, media have also reported that sale of liquor has gone up in poorer neighborhoods and this is quite likely, since about 30 percent of CCT beneficiaries are husbands, or they may simply help themselves to funds received by their wives.

     The beneficiaries are selected through a Proxy Means Test. This test considers the ownership of assets, type of housing, education of the household head, livelihood of the family and access to water and sanitation facilities. But it is so sad to know that unfair selection process is practiced by some. Many beneficiaries in some towns are not really poor but have availed the 4P's government assistance being relatives or just because they have "connections" with the local government. There are beneficiaries that hold office in the municipality or spouses of government employees that don’t deserve to receive cash grants if the guidelines for selecting beneficiaries under the 4P's program are strictly observed. That's why there are even teachers, which some have spouses working abroad benefit from this program! And those who are in extreme poverty that are supposed to have been chosen but because are not allied to the local officials are being ignored and disregarded.

     Meanwhile, the militant group Anakbayan branded the program as "legalized vote buying and patronage politics." Inquirer report that CCT is already being used by candidates in their campaigns in some cities. An expert on the program earlier warned that CCT can be used for vote-buying in the 2013 mid-term elections like what happened in South American countries which implemented similar cash transfer measures. Thus, this provides high-risk environment for massive graft and corruptions. 

     On this note, the DSWD established three systems to ensure that its purpose will be properly served. The Grievance Related System (GRS) will respond to the complaints, questions or inquiry relating to the carrying out of the program; second is the Update System that renews the conditions or data of the beneficiaries and the Compliance Verification System (VRS) which monitors the beneficiaries if the requirements and conditions set in the program are complied. Any identified beneficiary found violating the agreement will be automatically removed from the program. However, the DSWD has limited capacity as it implements other social protection programs. 

     Additionally, an overwhelming majority of beneficiaries said that what would lift them out of poverty was access to regular employment. This underscores the fact that one of the most important elements in the fight against poverty is productive employment. 

      A UP professor of political economy, taxation and fiscal policies also deplored that the CCT heightens the more negative aspects of our culture. Media have also reported the desire of some poor folk to abandon seeking a living and just await CCT funds, as it encourages a dole-out mentality instead of self-reliance and industriousness.


Children-beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya receive awards during recognition day. 
      On the other hand, 4P's is an important relief measure. An initial study on the pilot areas  of the program shows promising results. In Esperanza and  Sibagat,  Agusan  del Sur for  example,  two  of the  pilot  areas  of the  4Ps elementary school enrollment  has  increased  by  fifteen percent  (15%). Children  covered  by  4P's  have  higher attendance  compared  to  the  general  population  of children  in  school.  There  has  been 1 remarkable increase in the use of health services by pregnant women and children compared to 2007 and there has also been a significant increase in the vaccination rate as well as  a decrease in prevalence  of malnutrition  among  children. This is just one of the important achievements of the said program.

Beneficiaries of the 4P's pronounced the positive impact
of the said program in their lives

Mitigating the Risk Factors

     Experience from other countries that have implemented CCT widely shows that CCT programmes that focus on the individual cannot eradicate poverty on their own. They need to be accompanied by complementary programmes, particularly those that work at community and national levels. This includes programmes that are geared towards creating employment, providing ready access to health care, improving the quality of education (such as building schools, improving facilities, and building teacher capabilities), and other initiatives that address the full range of deprivations that make up poverty, including deprivations in access to local and global public goods. KALAHI-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDSS) is one such complementary programme, helping to address poverty issues at the community level through the provision of small infrastructure and other support services.

      Improve management information system (MIS) is an important measure to facilitate flow of reliable and accurate information in all the stages of 4P's implementation. The MIS ensures that every beneficiary household meets all the eligibility criteria and is receiving the right amount of cash grant depending on its current status and compliance with program conditionalities.

      It is then significant to design effective communication strategy to broaden awareness and sustain public and political support. The communication strategy must be able to impress upon the public the soundness of the technical design and rules of the 4P's, especially in the targeting and selection process. Finally, there is a need to mobilize coordinated support from the LGUs, DOH and DepEd to ensure prompt response to supply-side gaps and effective resolution of grievances.



   The DSWD should also ensure the effective implementation of the program by putting in place accountability mechanisms to achieve the expected goals. by doins so, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4P's may serve as a blueprint for more targeted social protection programs of the government.

      Nonetheless, as William Bennett said, "It is our character that supports the promise of our future - far more than particular government programs or policies." 

Program Coverage 

     Pantawid Pamilya operates in 79 provinces covering 1,261 municipalities and 138 key cities in all 17 regions nationwide. The program has 3,014,586 registered households as of 27 June 2012.