Judy’s permanent replacement faces Congress grilling on P9.5 B budget hike, P1 B cut in feeding program
The next permanent head of the Department of Social Welfare and Development must be “a quick study” who must not only grip the reins of a big-budgeted agency fast, but also expertly defend before Congress its proposed P137.5 billion budget for 2018.
“The budget hearings will serve as some sort of a confirmation hearing that will test the capability and preparedness of the next DSWD head. It will be the appointee’s first oral quiz,” Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“When you’re asking for billions of pesos, it is a kind of work that is non-delegatable. It’s not something that you can assign to an underling so that you can avoid the hot seat,” Recto said.
Recto said the DSWD’s proposed budget of P137.5 billion is P9.5 billion bigger than this year’s, “so Judy Taguiwalo’s replacement must be able to convince the House and the Senate that the agency deserves that increase.”
Recto was referring to the activist UP academic who was rejected by the Commission on Appointments more than one year after she was named to the post by President Duterte.
Bulk of DSWD’s budget will go to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the cash transfer program that will be given P89.4 billion next year, an P11.3 billion bump from this year’s P78.1 billion.
Because the number of beneficiaries for both years will be flat at 4.4 million families, Recto said, “syempre may magtatanong dyan kung bakit ganoon din karami ang mga beneficiaries subalit tumaas naman ng mahigit P11 bilyon ang pondo.”
“Isa pa siguradong itatanong: ‘Why are you reducing by P1 billion the funding for the supplementary feeding program for children?’” Recto said.
According to the senator, DSWD’s budget for meals for undernourished kids will go down from P4.42 billion this year to P3.42 billion under the 2018 budget Malacañang has submitted to Congress.
Recto said the next DSWD chief must be able “to hit the ground running and not spend the first months on training wheels because the agency has many programs, a 2017 budget of P128 billion, and clientele base of P29 million.”
“If tradition is to be followed, there’s a high bar to be met in choosing the head of an agency that helps those who have fallen through the cracks of society,” Recto said.
But DSWD’s expanded mandate has put the qualification standard a notch higher, Recto said. “The magnitude of programs leaves no room for an OJT to take over Judy Taguiwalo’s seat.”
“One in five Filipinos today is a recipient of DWSD assistance. In all, 28.29 million Filipinos are regular beneficiaries of its welfare and development programs,” Recto said.
“Through its mega-billion cash transfer programs, DSWD, in effect, maintains the country’s biggest payroll. For 2017, 4.4 million families or about 19.36 million individuals are enrolled in 4Ps,” Recto said.
He also cited the “almost three million senior citizens who receive P500 a month under the Social Pension for Indigents Program.”
DSWD is also a “big catering operation,” Recto said. It serves one nutritious meal a day to 1.746 million kids for 120 days. That would be 209 million kiddie meals served in a year.”
“It runs orphanages, halfway houses for women in distress, old age homes with a projected total clientele of 410,000. This includes individuals in emergency situations in need of assistance,” Recto said.
Recto said that DSWD, as a first-responder to calamities, has war evacuees to attend to. “Marawi alone has 201,000 individuals. This year DSWD has budget to attend to the needs of 346,000 of them.”
Recto said 1.540 million are enrolled in various livelihood programs run by the DSWD, primarily through Kalahi-CIDSS, which also implements small community infrastructure programs.