CCTP WATCH Project: Public Forum in Abra, 3 July 2013

Conference Hall, 3rd Floor Diocesan Parish Pastoral Center, Bangued, Abra

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The Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG) in partnership with the Partnership Transparency Fund, tracked the Implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the Conditional Cash Transfer Program Watch Project in 12 municipalities in Abra namely Boliney, La Paz, Villaviciosa, Bucloc, Tubo, Baay-Licuan, Luba, Langiden, Bucay, San Isidro, Danglas and Malibcong in April 2011- May 2012.

The result of the monitoring was presented through a public forum on July 3, 2013 at the Conference Hall of the Diocesan Parish Pastoral Center, Bangued, Abra.

Present on the Public Forum were the 4Ps Parent Leaders and Municipal Links of 12 municipalities, Civil Society Organization (CSO) Representatives, Local Chief Executive of Boliney, academe, Dr. Shomikho Raha, PTF External Evaluator, and Ms. Emy Perez of Affiliates Network for Social Accountability – East Asia Pacific (ANSA-EAP).

Irene Bongay, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Project Coordinator; Dr. Godofredo Gasa, Abra Provincial Health Officer; Decimia Cabang, Abra Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer; Mr. Crescencio Calina, Abra Provincial DILG Director; Dr. Rosita Brillantes, Division Superintendent, Department of Education – Abra; and Erlinda Ramos, Villaviciosa Parent Leader served as the Panelists during the forum.

The forum started with a prayer led by Loida Caydan then followed by the singing of the National Anthem led by Aina Manggad, both CCAGG Staff.

CCAGG Chairperson Pura C. Sumangil gave her welcome remarks and provided a Brief Backgound of the Forum.  She recalled that on December 29, 2010, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the CCAGG and DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman was signed. She stated that the said MOA was the only agreement entered into by the DSWD with Civil Society Organizations in the Cordillera Region to institutionalize mechanisms for people’s participation, to complement the agency’s efforts to achieve transparency and accountability in its various programs and services. Furthermore, Sumangil said that the MOA ushered in CCAGG’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Watch in the twelve municipalities. She added that five (5) CCAGG staff went to the towns, mostly in villages and outskirts, in search of the beneficiaries, met with them right in their homes and conducted meetings with them in their communities with their local leaders. Sumangil said that to be able to carry out the CCT Watch Program, CCAGG applied for a grant from the PTF in 2011 which the latter generously supported. She added that it’s PTF policy to commission a project completion assessment at the end of every project which they fund by engaging experts like Dr. Shomiko Raha who was there present in the forum.

Sumangil added that CCTP has been a subject of controversy and scrutiny by some sectors in the province and even the whole country. She said, it perhaps deserves such scrutiny since it is the center piece of the government’s social protection program. She asked the people to be slow in passing their judgement and instead allow an assessment or evaluation of an expert to learn its real score, which is one of the purposes of the said forum.

After the brief background of the forum by Sumangil, Project Coordinator Aniceta C. Baltar  presented the results of the CCTP Watch Project of the CCAGG. She first discussed the context of the project where she said the CCTP is one of the government’s responses to the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health.

Since the launching of the program in 2008, the  number of CCTP beneficiary households has increased rapidly to 3 million in 2012 with a budget of Php 39 billion and the budget support for the program has nearly doubled every year from Php 10 billion in 2010 to Php 21 billion in 2011 and Php 39 billion in 2012.

In addition, she said as of February 27, 2013 the CCTP operates in 1,605 cities and municipalities in 79 provinces in all 17 Regions nationwide with 3,851,691 household beneficiaries and the CCTP targets 4.6 million poor families, 2.3 million families were targeted for 2011.

Baltar also discussed the conditions that beneficiaries have to meet to be able to receive the cash grant in Health and Nutrition aspect, education aspect and attendance in monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS).

She also disclosed the objectives of the CCTP like the improvement of preventive health care among pregnant women and young children, to increase the enrolment and attendance rate of children in school, to reduce the incidence of child labor, to raise average consumption rate in food expenditure of poor households and to encourage parents to invest in their children’s human capital through investments in health and nutrition, education and participation in community activities.

She also explained how the beneficiaries were chosen. DSWD has set criteria in selecting household beneficiaries such as resident of the poorest municipalities based on 2003 Small Area Estimates of the National Statistical Coordinaltion Board (NSCB); households whose economic condition is equal to or below the provincial poverty threshold or Php 16,132.00 in Abra based on 2009 data.

After presenting all those information, Baltar gave the background of the CCAGG’s CCTP Watch Program. There are two (2) objectives of the CCTP Watch Project: the inclusion of the poorest of the poor as beneficiaries of the program, and to ensure that government money is not wasted.

Baltar also discussed the baseline survey that was conducted to determine the current status of CCTP in the province. She said that through this survey, 114 barangays were visited, 53 from the first batch of municipalities and 61 from the second batch. They validated 12 municipalities or a total of 16, 572 individual beneficiaries, 4,616 households, 8,164 children aged 5-14 enrolled in schools, 3,940 children aged 0-14 that regularly visited the RHU Clinics and 154 mothers in reproductive age.

In the summary of findings from the 12 municipalities visited, there are 1,500 families recommended for inclusion in the list and 60 household beneficiaries for exclusion. Based on their study, the 60 beneficiaries for exclusion represent a leakage of Php 4,200,000.00 granting that they received Php 1,400 monthly cash grant for 10 months every year since 2008.

She stated that compliance to the conditions of the program by the beneficiaries was found excellent in education, health and attendance of Family Development Sessions (FDS).

Baltar also stated some problems encountered by the beneficiaries in the implementation of the 4Ps like the delayed payment of the grant, or some beneficiaries did not receive any amount for quite some time and it took a long time to update the list of beneficiaries. She also added that some barangays did not conduct FDS.

The CCAGG study found out that the CCTP/4Ps made the beneficiaries’ lives better. It has great effects on the education of children, on the health of children and pregnant mothers, and on values formation of families. The study further showed that many children beneficiaries were found to be in the Top 10 of their classes. The program also reduced pregnancy risks and babies were born healthy because free medicines and vitamins were provided. The conduct of monthly Family Development Sessions resulted to more responsible families and community members. The FDS became a venue for the education of families, not just to become good members of the family but also good citizens.

She stated that one big impact of the program is the transformation of the poor people from being passive citizens to active citizens. They learned to participate and get involved in community activities when before they were just on lookers, bystanders and recipients of programs and projects.

On their recommendations, Miss Baltar said that replicating what the CCAGG did in the 12 municipalities can be done to protect the integrity of the program. In Abra, it can be done in the remaining 15 municipalities and in other parts of Northern Luzon and other regions, with some modifications suiting to the needs of each province or region.

The project team selected the municipality of Tubo as a model municipality, displaying their different best practices.

PANELISTS’ REACTIONS

Right after the presentation of the results of the study, the six (6) panelists gave their reactions.

Irene Bongay of DSWD-CAR, expressed her appreciation to CCAGG for their assistance in monitoring the CCTP in the Province of Abra. She also appreciated the report of Baltar because there had been issues and gaps as well as good practices presented. Bongay appreciated both the gaps and the best practices. Both are essential in the improvement of the program implementation not only in Abra but in the Cordillera region as well. She recognized the best practices or the impact of the program which according to her, affirms the earlier impact evaluation which states that the program really helped increase the participation of school children in their attendance to education and in their attendance to health center. Bongay said, this report shows that 4Ps helped the youth because the program invests in human capital particularly on the children’s health and education. With regards to the gaps or issues reported, Bongay said they do not want to give any excuses nor reasons because they would like to acknowledge that indeed they have some misgivings and shortcomings. They believe in transparency and accountability, and they will try to improve what has been earlier done and do better in the future in order to provide the services that the clients deserve better and faster.

Bongay also added that there had been several enhancements of the program as a result of various discussions. There are lot of expected changes. With these changes, there might be some problems that will arise but she said they are confident to narrow down issues through the help of all stakeholders.

Dr. Rosita Brillantes, Division Superintendent, affirmed the report of Baltar that the schools have a very great contribution in the implementation of 4Ps. She said that through the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), there is an evidence of strong partnership in the implementation of the said program. She also affirmed the good practices in Tubo as reported by the CCAGG. She added that the supervisors monitor the implementation of the said program in schools.

Dr. Godofredo Gasa, Provincial Health Officer, congratulated CCAGG the CCTP Watch project. He said he is not exposed to the CCT program because the function of the Provincial Health Office (PHO) is to give technical assistance to the Municipal Health Office (MHOs) and in the operation of the 5 government hospitals in Abra. Nevertheless, he said that the CCTP helped in improving the health condition of the beneficiaries, but this is only a small part of the population. He said, it is their duty to provide health care to the people with or without the CCTP.

Decimia Cabang, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer (PSWDO) in Abra, asked the presentor to give her the name of barangays which did not conduct FDS because it is a requirement of the program to conduct said session.

Cabang explained that in order to help the CCTP beneficiaries sustain their livelihood, the DSWD is giving them trainings in partnership with TESDA. By the end of 2013, the first set of beneficiaries will not receive the cash grant anymore. She said the DSWD downloaded Php11,500,000.oo to serve as training fund of the 575 4Ps beneficiaries. She was informed that the  transition planning on LGU level is ongoing for the set 1 beneficiaries. She is not convinced that all beneficiaries had crossed poverty after 5 years, so the LGUs should help to sustain their livelihood.

Erlinda Ramos, Villaviciosa parent leader, said the program helped them a lot. She was able to send her three children to school aside from the seminars and trainings they attended. They conduct regular FDS and the 4Ps beneficiaries in their place bring their children to the RHU for deworming and weighing. They help maintain cleanliness in their area.

Crescencio Calina, DILG Provincial Director, appreciated the study conducted by CCAGG. He said CCAGG is very active partner for good governance not only in Abra but in the whole country and worldwide.

Calina noticed that the researchers chose Tubo as a model town. He said Tubo is one of the first four towns in Abra awarded by the DILG with a Seal of Good Housekeeping. He questioned why the researchers presented the good practices in Tubo only and did not include Luba since Luba has the best practices in terms of health improvement. It was awarded Healthy Barangay Awards, a comprehensive program  which includes cleanliness, health, education, food production and others. He added that they recommended what CCAGG did in monitoring 4Ps program as one of the benchmarks for good governance in CAR.

Calina said DILG made an inventory on the LGU support to 4Ps and he is willing to give a copy of the result to be used for policy making and for the implementation of the next batches of the said program.

OPEN FORUM

Mayor Balao-as of Boliney said the cash grant given to the beneficiaries is not sufficient for the family and suggested that DSWD should add some more.

Bongayan said the government is aware that the cash given to the CCTP beneficiaries is not enough for the family. There is a design for the program and altering it may go against the design of the program and the agreement with the World Bank. She added that the program is not the sole solution of poverty that’s why there are other programs that may help in providing the beneficiaries’ livelihood and help them earn their living not just to receive money from the government.

Redentor Tejero from the Divine Word College of Bangued asked clarification on the exclusion and inclusion of beneficiaries in the 4Ps. He said he tried to compute and found out that in 5 years, around Php 5 million pesos is given to the 60 beneficiaries who are supposed to be excluded from the list which is a big amount for the 1,500 who are supposed to be included in the list. He asked if the inclusion of these 60 non-poor beneficiaries was with the influence of politicians. Mr. Tejero further suggested the prioritization of 4Ps beneficiaries to the trainings conducted by TESDA.

Bongay clarified the situation of those who were included in the program who are perceived not eligible in the beginning. During the survey, those families did not tell the correct information regarding their income. Right now, there is no directive from the national office that they have to take back what those reviewed not eligible beneficiaries have received. Furthermore, she said, a big number from the exclusion had been delisted.

With regards on the second concern, Bongay said the 4Ps beneficiaries are really the priority of trainings but some beneficiaries did not show interest. Through the convergence of different NGAs, NGOs and other government agencies, the 4Ps beneficiaries will be prioritized.

Cabang explained that in the training conducted by TESDA recently,  they accommodated some non-beneficiaries to meet the number of trainees because some 4Ps beneficiaries did not signify their interest.

Calina denied the allegation of political influence in choosing 4Ps beneficiaries. He said it is just right and proper for the enumerator to pay a courtesy call to the leader of the community before conducting the survey but it doesn’t mean to say that the political leader will influence them. He said, not all government programs are perfect; there is this margin of error for adjustment or correction in case there are unintentional errors during the implementation of the program.

Bumogas, Baay-Licuan ABC President, raised the concern on the manner of release of the CCTP cash grant. He said, beneficiaries in Baay-Licuan have to go to Bangued, sometimes spending more than what they received. He suggested that the release should be done in their place to avoid so much expenses.

Bongay explained that on the first implementation of 4Ps in Licuan-Baay, the mode of payment was over the counter (OTC) in Land Bank Bangued, but the succeeding releases were through the Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC). The postmasters go to Licuan to release their grant.

A parent leader in Licuan-Baay, clarified that pay-out of their grant is in Bangued and not through PPC.

The Municipali Link of Licuan-Baay answered the issue. He said that pay-outs before was done at Baquero. But there was a time that they coordinated with their Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MSWDO) and the MSWDO  referred this  to the Local Hief Executive  (LCE). The decision of the LCE (Mayor) is to have the payment in Bangued which prevailed because the transportation cost to pick up the beneficiaries for the pay-out is from the LGU fund.

Bongay said they will discuss the issue among themselves after the forum.

Eden Adriatico of DepEd expressed her commendation to CCAGG in conducting the survey. However, she suggested that on their next surveys, they should concentrate not only on upland municipalities but also on lowlands, that they should be able to identify factors in the failure or success of the program distinct in lowland and uplands.

Baltar said, on their first report the lowland municipalities were visited. It started in Langiden, Villaviciosa, San Isidro, Danglas, La Paz and Bucay. She said the report seemed concentrated on uplands because they highlighted Tubo but they also have good practices in the lowland areas. They only wanted to model Tubo.

Nides Paligutan Alcover of Bucay Movement for Change said the transition planning in Bucay is finished and they were invited in the planning. The LCE promised to extend help to the set 1 of 4Ps beneficiaries through the help of NGO. She said the 4Ps beneficiaries should organize themselves in order for them to have easier access to government programs and projects. But this is in Bucay where the LGU will help the beneficiaries, how about the other municipalities, Alcover asked.

Director Calina of DILG said from the start of the program, LGUs did not help in the implementation of the program.  He said, LGU will extend the help they can to the beneficiaries.

Leonides Alcover gave her concern to DILG Provincial Director Calina (standing beside her) regarding the transition of the CCTP to the LGU.

Cabang said every LGU has programs for livelihood projects and suggested that they will help the beneficiaries through these. She claims that LGUs do not prioritize social services; in fact, they can provide trainings and capital for their constituents. She said DSWD cannot provide livelihood to all these set 1  beneficiaries, but there are other agencies which can provide through the help of LGUs.

Calina gave the beneficiaries a ray of hope by explaining the process of the Executive Legislative Agenda in an LGU which covers 3 year period and where CSOs as members can propose the inclusion of livelihood projects for the municipality. He also added that every municipality has the Local Poverty Reduction Action Plan (LPRAP) which has a livelihood component.

Dr. Gasa ensured the set 1 beneficiaries that health services will continue even if they are not beneficiaries anymore. The only challenge is how to enforce them so that they would avail the services. He also asked if the PhilHealth sponsorship of these beneficiaries will continue even after the 4Ps “graduation.”

Bongay said, they already raised the issue to the Philhealth national office but there is no feedback yet.

After the open forum, Dr. Shomikho Raha was given a chance to talk. In his message, he thanked CCAGG for inviting him. He reminded that the idea of CCTP was derived from other CCTPs in other countries. He said CCTP has three functions to the people – prevention, protection and promotion. Prevention – the program prevents people to fall into poverty. Protection – the program protects the people by having livelihood and education. Promotion – the program helps the people for the future, the sustainability, on how to access employment, etc.

He said the World Bank conducted an evaluation of the 4Ps program and it is very encouraging to see that 4Ps has done very well in protection- in protecting poor people access in education and health which was confirmed by the CCAGG by their study.
He said that although the improvement has happened in health and education, it is different with the other provinces. He also announced that Abra is one of the best provinces in the implementation based on CCAGG project.

He said it would be useful to have meetings so that the officials will know about 4Ps. As regards to the sustainability of the program, he said it is good that in the LPRAP, a parent leader is a member.

CCAGG Vice Chairperson Merla Ruiz delivered her Closing Remarks by thanking all the participants in joining the forum. She cited the importance of people’s participation in any government program.

(The forum ended at 11:50 in the morning and lunch immediately followed.)