AMID suspicions that the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the National Government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Davao assured that politicians do not have a hand in selecting beneficiaries.

CCT gives cash assistance to the poorest of the poor provided they fulfill some obligations with regard maternal and child health and education.

DSWD-Davao information officer for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Sheryll Fernandez they are ensuring that their operations are “epal-free.”

4Ps is a conditional cash transfer program initiated by the government. It aims to address the poverty problems of Filipino households on a short-term basis, investing in health and education of kids ages 18 years old and below.

The family beneficiaries are given P1,400 cash assistance every two months of the year.

“Wala po silang (politicians) power to include and delist families as beneficiaries of 4Ps,” Fernandez told Sun.Star Davao in a recent interview at their office.

Fernandez said that the enforcement of the anti-epal campaign is one of their initiative to inform the beneficiaries that politicians are not involved in the implementation of the program.

“We repeatedly tell beneficiaries that they should not believe claims by politicians that they can delist families. They don’t have that power,” she said.

In order to strengthen their anti-epal campaign, DSWD has been partnering with other government agencies including Commission on Elections (Comelec), Department of Education (DepEd), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to monitor the actions of some national and local candidates.

All agencies are collaborating, she said, to finally put a stop to these wrong impressions.

Fernandez said that beneficiaries who experienced being threatened or influenced by any politicians through DSWD’s program may submit their grievances and reports to their regional office.

“Kung may grievances sila on the matter, pwede sila magsubmit (DSWD) through our social workers who are stationed in each specific areas. If we receive any complaints, we will forward it to the Comelec and DILG sa Manila and they will be calling the attention of the involved candidates,” Fernandez said.

The 4Ps program has also been criticized by some for being the roots of corruption among its implementers. But Fernandez insists that government personnel do not have access to the funds.

“Yung ayuda na ibinibigay natin sa ating mga isang beneficiary ay hindi dumadaan sa kamay ng ating mga personnel. Pumapasok derecho yung mga incentives sa kani-kanilang mga ATM accounts,” Fernandez said.

Listahanan or Talaan ng Pamilyang Nangangailangan is a database used by DSWD to determine and identify which households are eligible and qualified as beneficiaries.

Arlyn Limato Quimque, a mother of six kids, and a resident of Barangay 23-C in Davao City, who has been a beneficiary since 2008, admitted she did not know anything about 4Ps before.

“Sa una abi namo hinabang lang gikan kay Mayor pero kadtong naexplain na gyud sa amoa didto mi nakabalo na dako diay ni ug pwede maitabang sa amoa (At the start we thought this is just part of our mayor’s assistance. It was only later when we realized that this is much more than what we thought it was),” Quimque said.

Quimque said that 4Ps has been helping them a lot, especially when their house was razed along with more than 1,000 others in the April 2014 fire at Isla Verde and Mini-Forest that affected more than 3,700 families.

She said that not once had any politician approached her family with regards 4Ps.

“So far, wala man pud mi nakaexperience na duolun ug pulitiko ug pugsun mi na mubuto sa iyaha (We did not encounter any politicians asking for our vote in exchange of 4Ps benefits),” Quimque said in a separate interview at their residence.

Elena Alingalan, a social worker designated in the barangay, said that they don’t allow any gatherings for 4Ps beneficiaries during election period so that the program cannot be taken advantage of.

“Even gani mga brgy. officials ginamonitor nato (We also monitor even the barangay officials in the areas),” she added.

According to Alingalan, the implementation of the anti-Epal Campaign is essential to avoid any forms of abuse.

Meanwhile, Fernandez said that the implementation of the 4Ps program is also extended even to the Indigenous People (IPs) and peasant groups in far-flung areas.

But as of late, some lumads and peasants in provinces of Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental have accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of threatening them of being delisted as beneficiaries in the said program.

In a recent statement furnished to Sun.Star Davao, Pasaka spokesperson Isidro Indao said: “Parents of students enrolled in Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and MISFI Academy in Sitio Mantapay, Limot and Bagangan, Brgy. Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental are threatened by elements of the military that they will not be able to receive their CCT if they continue to patronize the schools which the military maliciously accused as NPA institutions.”

However, Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra denied the accusations, saying these claims are just forms of propaganda of the said groups.

“Hindi gawain ng mga sundalo yan na mag-threaten ng mga civilians. Gusto nga natin silang madevelop yung areas nila at mabigyan ng government interventions,” Lacambra said.

Lacambra said they do not have power to delist beneficiaries since the program is under DSWD.

Fernandez affirmed the statement of Army, saying that only committee members of the program can delist them should they violate parameters that include fraud, among others.

“Walang right and power and military to remove beneficiaries from the program. Yan yung tandaan nila. DSWD lang naay capacity to add or remove beneficiaries,” Fernandez said.

As of April, Davao Region had 232,533 households in the program, with 85,535 coming from Davao del Sur, 47,961 from Davao del Norte, 41,718 from Davao Oriental, and 57,339 from Compostella Valley. (Sun Star Davao)