Suarez wants probe of cash aid fund slash

Suarez wants probe of cash aid fund slash: It’s a law, not just a program

/ 06:06 PM February 22, 2024

Marcos is PH's 'best marketing strategist,' says Suarez 4ps

Quezon Rep. David “Jay-Jay” Suarez. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Updated: 12:02 a.m., Feb. 23, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Deputy Speaker David Suarez wants a congressional probe into the budget cut on the conditional cash transfer program in 2023, noting that this item is more than just a regular program of the government.


In a press briefing on Thursday, Suarez noted that the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) is a law, which means funding is required under the annual budget.


Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon attributed the cuts in the 4Ps amounting to P13 billion to Sen. Imee Marcos. Marcos justified the move, however, by saying that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which is tasked with implementing the 4Ps, admitted to using only 45 percent of the 4Ps budget.

“Let us not forget, 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.

“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 what effect it had on the program, and number two, about how many million Filipino households were affected by the realignment of funds from this program,” he added.

READ: Imee Marcos’ budget realigning led to millions not receiving 4Ps — Bongalon 

Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Jude Acidre of the and Tingog Partylist, believes Marcos should be held accountable for her actions — reiterating that the 4Ps is a law and not an inserted program.

“I don’t think the accountability of Senator Marcos is simply by admitting that she was the one who removed that from the budget during the bicam. I think her accountability to her constituents is to also explain to them: ‘Where did the money go’?” Acidre said.


He said Marcos might have forgotten that the 4Ps program is a law — which means appropriations are required for the program.

“I think the good senator has also forgotten that 4Ps is not just a program of government. It is actually a law. In fact, in the implementation of the law, there are states like Listahanan 1, Listahanan 2. It’s not an arbitary (action) of the DSWD that they want to have the 4Ps,” he noted.

Suarez and Acidre are not the first lawmakers to call for a probe on the issue. On Wednesday, 4Ps party-list Rep. JC Abalos said that an investigation would be necessary since a lot of possible 4Ps beneficiaries missed out on the aid because of Marcos’ budget cuts.

“There are a lot of 4Ps beneficiaries who suffered because of that budget slash. The budget slash is an important issue that should be resolved and investigated because the poorest of the poor are affected,” Abalos said.

“With the budget cut made by the Senate, there was considerable delay in giving the cash grant to the beneficiaries. 2023 was a crucial year because if you look at the GAA, we paid our dues to the 4Ps beneficiaries from 2017 and 2018… We do not want the same mistake of having delays in cash grants,” he added.

Marcos explained in a separate statement that rather than having the agency return the unutilized funds to the treasury annually, the surplus funds should be allocated to another program so that people could benefit from it.

Abalos said Marcos may have, out of good intentions, channeled the unutilized funds on the 4Ps item to other programs during the budget talks in 2022 without considering that there could be more beneficiaries starting in 2023.

He also said that DSWD informed both the House and the Senate that there would be more beneficiaries in 2023, which happened, leading to a deficit of around P13 billion, Abalos said.

READ: Solon: Imee move to cut 4Ps fund didn’t expect more beneficiaries 

Staying professional

Meanwhile, other House lawmakers, like La Union Rep. Paolo Ortega, questioned on Wednesday the timing of the issues Marcos was raising.

“Why is this issue popping up only now when all of these went through a rigorous budget process of the House and the Senate? So, I guess, if there are administrative concerns or budgetary concerns, these should have been threshed out in our hearings,” he said.

“I mean, it should have gone with the process, but it is easy to say anything. So if it’s in the proper forum, then I guess we should talk about it so that different problems and concerns would be addressed,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lanao del Norte 1st District Rep. Khalid Dimaporo suggested resolving issues by opening the minutes of the bicameral conference committee tasked with finalizing the 2023 and 2024 budgets.

Dimaporo also appealed to lawmakers, both from the House and the Senate, to stay professional and avoid rumor-mongering.

“If you really want to know the answer to that, bring out the minutes of the bicam, we would know,” he said.

“I really would like to appeal to both houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate as much as possible, we keep things professional that you know the Filipino people deserve more of the usual ‘marites’ [gossiping or rumor mongering] ” he said. “Now if you want to point fingers on where certain realignments came from, get the minutes of the bicam.”

This recent issue between Marcos and House lawmakers started when the senator raised questions about Ayuda para sa Kapos ang Kita Program (AKAP), a one-time cash grant for the near-poor, which she believes was inserted during the bicameral conference committee meetings.

READ: Workers earning no more than P23,000 monthly to get P5,000 aid – House

Marcos also speculated that AKAP funds were used to entice people into signing in favor of the people’s initiative campaign to amend the Constitution, which some senators believe was being orchestrated by House leaders.

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Several House officials have already called out Senator Marcos for her claims, with Bongalon’s fellow Ako Bicol party-list lawmaker, Rep. Elizaldy Co, saying that the Senator is tarnishing the pure intentions of AKAP.


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