Press Release
October 14, 2010


Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA), said that Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman might find it "hard, if not impossible," to get a CA confirmation, because her budget of P21 billion for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is "indefensible."

"It is unconscionable to make drastic cuts in the budget of the University of the Philippines and other state universities and colleges, which cater to poor students, in order to support a program of dole-outs without the necessary preparation," Santiago said.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad proposed massive cuts in the budget of UP and other state universities and colleges (SUCs) for 2011. From P6.9 billion in 2010, Abad decreased UP's budget to P5.5 billion, or a difference of P1.4 billion. Other SUCs are also threatened with budget cuts. Abad wants them to have a budget of P21.7 billion, down by some P700 million from their budget of P22.4 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, Soliman wants the CCT program to have a whopping P21 billion allocation in 2011, which is more than a 100% increase from its 2010 budget of P10 billion.

"Cutting the budget of UP and SUCs to expand the CCT program is not the answer," Santiago fumed.

Santiago said that the CCT program should go hand in hand with improvement of health and welfare services and infrastructure.

"Under the present CCT program, parents must ensure that their children go to school, and undergo regular health check-ups to continue to qualify for the program. But how can they do this if there are not enough schools or barangay health workers to see to their needs?" Santiago asked.

Last year, Santiago and Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to discuss the formula for the success of his Bolsa Familia program.

The Bolsa Familia program has been a huge success in Brazil. It is hailed all over the world for reducing poverty in Brazil.

After her meeting with Lula, Santiago filed Senate Bill No. 92, entitled "Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Act," which is her own version of the CCT program. It is patterned after Brazil's Bolsa Familia program.

Santiago's bill "addresses structural inequities in society and promotes human capital development of the poor, thus breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty."

She wants qualified beneficiary families to receive cash grants from the government conditioned upon parents undergoing training on responsible parenthood, having their children undergo regular health check-ups, ensuring their children go to school, and other conditions that promote the family's health and welfare.

The feisty senator also underscored the need to pass her Senate Bill No. 2378 or the Reproductive Health Bill.

According to her, a maximum of three children only per family can avail of the cash grants under the present CCT program.

"If we are seriously committed to eradicate poverty, then the issue of population cannot be ignored," Santiago said. "The State must implement programs that teach couples about reproductive health and responsible parenthood."

The RH bill will ensure that the CCT program will be effectively continued by the government to eradicate poverty. Since the program only provides CCT up to the third child in each family, poor families will have difficulties providing for the other children beyond the third child.

Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Santiago was the lone senator who filed the RH bill in the Senate.

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