SINCE the implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Davao Region in 2009, there has been a total 229,871 beneficiaries who have received cash grants from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Davao Region.

Davao del Sur made up the bulk of the beneficiaries at 84,510, but this is because Davao City, a chartered city and shouldn’t have been included in the province, is included. Davao City accounts for 20,301 of this total.

It is followed by Compostela Valley Province with 56,698, Davao del Norte with 47,838 and Davao Oriental with 40,825.

Beneficiaries are selected based on the data of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) while DSWD also utilizes data gathered by its National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR).

The figures derived from both databases are then collated in the community level through social workers who conduct house-to-house visits for a more specific validation. Families may receive as much as P1,400 every month. Parents get P500 while each child of elementary to high school age get P300. Only three children are given the cash grant in a family.

DSWD-Davao information officer for the 4Ps Sheryll Fernandez, in an interview with Sun.Star Davao, admitted that the cash grant is just a little, but this already means a lot to poor families.

“It is just an assistance for families so that they will have additional allowances to send their children to school and feed them,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez reacts to criticisms that the program is but a dole-out. She said there are conditions that are set for the family to receive the assistance and can thus not be considered as dole-out. Students receiving the cash grants should at least have an 85 percent school attendance every month while they are also required to visit health care centers for regular checkup.

Mothers, meanwhile, should also have themselves checked in the health care centers and are obliged to attend family development sessions. If these conditions are not met for the first time, beneficiaries will get a verbal reprimand while the next non-compliance would entail a written reprimand from the regional director.

The third offense would cause the suspension of cash grants for a month while those who fail to comply for the succeeding months may be delisted from the program.

“We strongly believe that it is not a dole out since they have to follow these conditions. After all, if they follow these conditions we could help families keep their children in school while they can also maintain good health,” Fernandez said.

But she was quick to add that they do not directly delist beneficiaries as they let social workers conduct the social case management to identify why some beneficiaries fail to comply. The social workers are then tasked to conduct interventions in order for beneficiaries to get back to following the conditions.

In relation to the delisting of beneficiaries, data from DSWD-Davao showed that a total of 1,979 were already excluded from the beneficiaries. Most of the delisted beneficiaries have opted to waive themselves off the program while some were excluded after they were deemed ineligible due to the increase in their salary.

Fernandez, however, admitted that they are also forced to delist the so-called inclusion errors, saying: “Our system is not perfect and there are those who are included even though they are not actually eligible. So what we do is we let our social workers validate their eligibility and if they are not really eligible then we delist them.”

DSWD has also bore the brunt of having fraudsters who pose as marginalized people and later on social workers would find out that they are actually disqualified for the program.

“Some of the beneficiaries intentionally refuse to disclose their other assets when they are being interviewed by social workers. We would then discover that they have other properties or assets elsewhere so we also delist them,” Fernandez said.

It has been six years since the program has been implemented but Fernandez said none of the beneficiaries have graduated from the program due to the changes implemented by President Benigno Aquino III last year.

Before, cash grants were only provided to children aging 14 and below, yet under Aquino’s administration, the cash assistance was extended to those who are on their way to high school.

Those in the secondary level of education, meanwhile, receive P500 each month instead of the P300 that elementary students get.

Due to the extension of the program to high school level, DSWD has yet to fully assess how the 4Ps has actually aided in the entirety of their poverty alleviation programs.

“So far, the assessments come from the success stories of our beneficiaries. Our monitoring and evaluation also has a case management tool called the Social Welfare Indicator, which determines the level of well-being of our beneficiaries but since the program has extended we have yet to determine when a beneficiary should graduate from the program,” Fernandez said.

The levels of well-being, Fernandez said, include survival, subsistence and self-sufficiency. Those in the survival level could be considered the poorest of the poor as members of the households under this level are usually unemployed and lack the technical skills.

Households within the subsistence level, meanwhile, are those with only one parent or adult member who sustains the family. Self-sufficient level means at least two members of the household who are skilled enough to land regular jobs. These indicators have yet to be consolidated but the DSWD still considers 4Ps as one of its flagship programs amid its uncertainty in addressing poverty.

“For as long as this program helps families keep their children in school while keeping families healthy as well, then the program will continue. Anyway, those who will graduate in the 4Ps are most likely to qualify for other programs of the DSWD,” Fernandez added. (Sun Star Davao)