If I were Gov. Lolong Firmalo, I would immediately conduct an investigation involving the mayor of Ferrol to find out why the municipal hall has become a grocery store instead of a public service office. The Romblon Sun photos of the munisipyo being used as a veritable marketplace don’t lie.
In the April 18-24 issue of the newspaper, Awe Eranes and Tony Macalisang reported that 200 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, the flagship program of President Benigno S. Aquino III for the poorest of the Filipino poor, was apparently being prostituted in Ferrol to benefit a few—and make the poor in Ferrol poorer still.
Who this few are, we don’t yet know, but if the Romblon Sun is to be believed, there is a corruption happening in the implementation of the program. Apparently, some wise guys from the munisipyo are profiting from the 4Ps by inducing, if not forcing, the beneficiaries into spending their cash benefits in groceries—noodles, sardines, rice, milk, laundry soap, sugar, and biscuits—which the munisipyo itself sells.
Clap your hands for the evil creativity of the 4Ps program implementors in Ferrol! Salute them for their ingenuity. They should be given awards ala-Go Negosyo!
Rowena Aguirre, one of the beneficiaries interviewed by the Romblon Sun about the anomalous business, had said that they would be delisted from the beneficiaries’ list of the 4Ps if they would not spend their money on grocery items peddled by the munisipyo. She quoted a certain Leonora Compas, the alleged grocery dealer, who had allegedly issued the threat.
“Tatanggalin daw nila kami bilang recipient ng 4Ps kung hindi sa kanila kami bibili ng aming mga kailangan,” said Edna Asuncion, another beneficiary. Asuncion also said the grocery items being offered by the munisipyo are over-priced, even if, as the Romblon Sun reported, student-youths under the Special Program for the Employment of Students, or SPES, were made to pack the grocery items. Ayaw ni DOLE Secretary Rosalinda-Baldoz nang ganiyan, di ba Bernie?
Well, I have good news for Mrs. Aguirre and Asuncion. Be not afraid of Ms. Compas. She cannot remove you from the beneficiaries’ list. It is only the DSWD which has right to remove or add a name to the list. Please text this anomaly to the DSWD-Mimaropa regional office at 0918-912-2813. That’s the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program hotline.
Now, we have names—and a question for Mayor Jason Fabila. Is Leonora Compas an employee of the munisipyo? If yes, what is her work and why is she engaged in the grocery business?
The Romblon Sun reported that there is a cooperative in the munisipyo running the grocery sting, but the coop, still according to the newspaper, is moribund and does not issue official receipts. If this is true, then Mayor Fabila has a lot of questions to answer.
The same is true with the municipal and provincial officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Foremost of these questions is whether they knew of this unofficial business operation happening in an official place involving the 4Ps.
It is a pity that these local officials don’t care a whit about the fate of the poor. They are heartless. But perhaps, they don’t understand the program, that’s why they don’t share the P-Noy’s administration’s vision in implementing this rights-based social protection program that aims to cut the inter-generational cycle of poverty.
For the information of Mayor Fabila and all local officials of Ferrol who may be involved in siphoning off the beneficiaries’ 4Ps benefits, the P500 per household and the P300 per child per month that the poor are receiving aims to ensure that 3-14 years old children go to day care centers and schools with 85 percent minimum attendance and that pregnant women and 0-14 years old children get basic health services.
President P-Noy hopes that by investing in the human capital of the poor, they are assured of a better future and will be equipped with necessary skills to contribute to their community and to the growth of the country as a whole. Because some local officials were mulcting the 200 4Ps beneficiaries in Ferrol, they are, in effect, defeating the purpose of the program.
Well, Ms. Vilma Foz of the DSWD regional office has promised an investigation of this glaring anomalous and corrupt act. She very well should, because even if this business involving an expired cooperative has already been made public by the Romblon Sun, provincial officials have not moved a bit to do the investigating themselves. It seems the 4Ps beneficiaries in Ferrol are being fried in their own lard.
In the meantime, the Romblon Sun could do either of two things. It could follow-up the investigation promised by Ms. Foz, or expose the corruption some more. I encourage Awe Eranes and Tony Macalisang to interview the provincial DSWD officer—is she Ms. June Recon?—to find out if she knew about this anomaly.
Also in the meantime, I shall furnish the Senate Committee on Finance and Public Expenditures a copy of this opinion piece, as well as the issue of the Romblon Sun where the report was published, so that Senator Frank Drilon, who chairs the committee, could initiate proper action.