Giving back to the community by way of service is not always a success as giving gifts to poor people on Christmas or relief operations during a calamity, but the effort showed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in elevating the lives of the poor has proved one point: That the government is serious in propagating their mission.
And what is the mission? To make the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) works on every poor Filipino.
Is it working well?
AusAID consultant Dr. Tarcisio Castaneda, an international expert on social protection has answered this question. In an article published online, he was quoted as saying “the program continues to be working well in improving the lives of millions of Filipinos.”
Castaneda who visited the country recently to review the 4P’s program has described it as a “remarkable” program, adding it could provide lessons from some countries.
The first time I heard of this 4P’s program also known as Conditional Cash Transfer Program which aims to reduce poverty among Filipino households all over the country, my initial reaction was, oh another “papalatong” a Chamorro expression which means jest or a joke. I thought it was just another sweet promise by our government to make our Kababayans believe that they are doing something for us, especially the poor.
Not until I personally saw it with my two eyes, that there are indeed poor Pinoys whose lives were somehow improved when they became a beneficiary of this program.
Just a week ago, I was one of those who were invited by the staff of the DSWD to accompany them in their immersion program in Bukidnon, as a continuing effort to uplift the lives of the poor especially the Indigenous People.
I was able to interview two members of IP households and in that interview my heart sank when they told me how grateful they are to our government for reaching out and for helping them in their daily needs.
Victoria Paner, 51, and Mercilyn Lagunday, 39, of Barangay Kibalabag, Malaybalay City, were members of Higaunon Tribe. Paner has four children; two were already adults while the other two are still minors and studying. As a beneficiary of 4Ps, she is entitled to P1, 600 in every two months. She is receiving a health allowance of Php 500.00 a month while her child is receiving an educational allowance of Php 300.00, a total of Php 800.00 a month.
Lagunday on the other hand has six children; three are studying so she is receiving a total allowance of Php 2, 800.00 in every two months. Each child is entitled to an educational allowance of Php 300.00 and she is entitled to a health allowance of Php 500.00.
Paner and Lagunday’s husbands are both farm workers. Their main crop is corn and earning only Php 4, 000.00. Both mothers admitted that it’s not enough for a family who has an average member of five and up.
Lagunday said she finds it hard to make ends meet and just resorted to salt, dried fish and Camote as their main meal. She can’t even afford to buy milk for her infant children.
But when she became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program, she admitted that their lives improved somehow.
She said with the monthly assistance that they are getting from the government; she can now feed her children with sufficient meals.
“Dako gyud ug tabang, makapalit na ko ug bugas ug gatas ug sud an para sa akong mga anak. Dako kayo ug tabang sa akong pamilya ang dungag na P2,800 kada ikaduha na bulan kumpara kaniadto na kulang kaayo unya kutob lang mi sa asin o bulad na sud an,” (It’s a big help, at least now I can buy milk and rice for my children. The additional P2, 800 every two months is a big help to my family compared before we have no choice but to settle with dried fish and salt as our main meal.)
They have been a beneficiary of the said program for two years now.
Paner and Lagunday are just among those hundreds of Indigenous People who did not go to school. Some went but did not even finish their Elementary Education.
With the current government effort, there won’t be illiterate Indigenous People anymore.
The 4Ps is considered a flagship anti-poverty program of the government. Cash incentives are distributed to poor households on the condition that parents enroll their children to school and bring them to health centers for a regular check-up.
The mothers, especially the pregnant women are also required to seek pre-and post-natal care.
According to the DSWD, as of June 2013, the program has nearly 3.93 million registered households. Operations run in all 17 regions, covering 79 provinces, including 1,484 municipalities and 143 major cities.
Feature article and photos contributed by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa exclusive for Orange Magazine.