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Palace defends DSWD ‘anti-epal’ campaign

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12:30 AM January 8th, 2013

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January 8th, 2013 12:30 AM

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Malacañang on Monday defended the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) from criticism that it was allotting P10.5 million for its campaign against “epal’’ or credit grabbers.

Undersecretary Abigail Valte said the P10.5 million was the entire budget of the social marketing service that leads DSWD’s advocacy to apprise beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of their rights against credit-grabbing politicians.

The deputy presidential spokesperson said the social marketing unit was in charge of disseminating the department’s various programs to the public through the media. She said the amount included allocations for personnel services and miscellaneous and other operating expenses.

“Essentially, it’s an advocacy of the DSWD to inform the beneficiaries themselves. Because we’re getting reports that politicians were warning beneficiaries that if they did not vote for them they’d be stricken off the list,’’ she said in a briefing.

Valte said the advocacy became more relevant in view of the upcoming campaign for the midterm elections in May.

“What we are trying to safeguard against is that the program becomes a tool for patronage politics. We don’t want that to happen,’’ she said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño has called the public’s attention to the DSWD plan to spend P10.5 million in CCT funds for its campaign against credit-grabbers. He questioned the campaign, saying this wasn’t part of the department’s mandate.

Casiño said the DSWD published on Dec. 31 last year an invitation for a service provider for newspaper publications, and the  production and airing of TV and radio commercials for the CCT’s “Bawal ang EPAL dito (Credit grabbers are banned here)” campaign.

“The DSWD wants to use the people’s money for something not within its mandate or expertise. Further, given the wide definition of what epal is, the funds can be used for partisan political activity against the critics of the 4Ps and the Aquino administration,” he said.

Patterned after Latin American countries’ CCT, the program provides direct education and health subsidies to the poorest households that comply with certain conditions such as high class attendance for children and regular prenatal checkups for mothers.

Of the DSWD’s P56.3 billion budget for 2013, the CCT program was allotted P44.2 billion.

The three-year-old scheme gives up to P1,400 a month to each of  the poorest families who meet certain criteria, like keeping their children in school and bringing them, as well as pregnant family members, regularly to government health clinics.

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