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Senators grill DSWD’s Soliman on CCT beneficiaries

Senators on Wednesday scrutinized anew the Aquino administration's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, focusing on how the beneficiaries who receive monthly stipends are selected. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Loren Legarda asked Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman during Wednesday's Senate finance committee hearing how the beneficiaries to the program were chosen. Monthly stipends of up to P1,400 are given to the poorest families under the program. It is part of DSWD's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps. "How are you selecting the beneficiaries? What is the criterion used to select the municipalities to be included? If this really is program for the poor, we should start with the poorest," said Enrile. Senator Franklin Drilon, chair of the Senate finance committee, asked Soliman to provide a list of areas where the beneficiary families are located as a way of knowing whether they really are poor. Soliman said her department will submit the list, noting that the beneficiaries were selected based on a reliable survey by the national government. Compliance with requirements Apart from the selection process, Lacson asked whether the DSWD is able to monitor the beneficiaries’ compliance with the program's requirements. As of September 2011, the DSWD said 2.23 million households were registered to the CCT. "I will not argue that the CCT program... is succeeding, but there are some issues and concerns, (which are) valid, that should be addressed," said Lacson. CCT beneficiaries are required to comply with three things:
  • Children must go to school 85 percent of the time
  • Children must be immunized
  • Moreover, mothers must undergo prenatal and maternal health care check ups.
According to a DSWD report, more than 90 percent of children under the CCT program are in compliance with the first requirement and that 83 percent of children below three years old have been immunized. "Beneficiaries use the grants properly. Their top spending priorities for the money are education and schooling materials, food, and health and medical care," the report said.. Enrile also asked Soliman what was the CCT program’s end goal. "What does this program seek to achieve? Reduction of poverty, education, or improvement of the health of the people?" he said. "Sustainable livelihoods" The greatest fear among its critiques is that the beneficiaries will become dependent on government dole outs and lose the drive to earn their living, according to the Senate President. Earlier, he suggested that beneficiaries work in exchange for their stipend. Soliman said that families "exiting" the five-year enrollment to the program are weaned into "sustainable livelihoods" on their way to self-reliance. Enrile doubted the effectiveness of such livelihood opportunities. "It's easy to say this… But what kind of sustainable livelihood (will you give them)?" he said. "In reality, in actual life... it's going to be difficult to accomplish what you are envisioning," he added. In his second State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III said he expects three million families to benefit from the program by 2012. In the proposed P1.8-trillion national budget for 2012, P39 billion will go to the CCT program — up 89 percent from the P23 billion allotted to it this year. The Senate finance committee has scheduled another hearing on the proposed 2012 DSWD budget on Friday. — VS, GMA News