By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Over 32,500 ‘ghost’ or ‘undeserving’ beneficiaries of the national conditional cash transfer (CCT) program have been delisted across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), translating to savings of more than P44.8-million per month for the government, local authorities said.
Atty. Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, said she was expecting at least 10,000 more “unfit” individuals to be delisted in the continuing purge of the regional CCT list of beneficiaries.
ARMM, classified by the government as one of three poorest regions in the country, covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi provinces and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Alamia, a renowned human rights lawyer, launched the massive cleansing of the lists of CCT or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries in the region after Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman installed her as concurrent secretary of the ARMM’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) last December.
The 4Ps program, formerly Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino, is being implemented by the DSWD. It aims to eradicate extreme poverty by investing in health and education particularly in ages 0–14. Patterned on programs in other developing countries like Brazil and Mexico, it started to operate in June 2014 in 17 regions, 79 provinces, 1,484 towns and 143 cities covering 4,090,667 household beneficiaries. Each household with three children receives P1,400 monthly.
Prior to the purge, reportedly instigated by concerned local officials led by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, 4Ps beneficiaries in ARMM stood at more than 370,000 as of last December, Alamia said, hinting that only about 75 percent of the figure constituted genuine beneficiaries.
Alamia initiated the purge last March, holding successive fora in ARMM and tapping military forces – as enforcers of the martial law in Mindanao – to elicit support from constituent barangay, municipal, and provincial officials.
ARMM Education Secretary Rasol Mitmug Jr. joined all the fora, bringing along all schools superintendents in the region because there were reports that teachers were involved in the alleged scam. Some teachers were discovered to be either 4Ps beneficiaries or collaborators in the exaction of “commissions” from beneficiaries, it was learned.
Alamia said the bulk of irregular 4Ps beneficiaries was discovered in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which have the largest population in the ARMM.
Emma Ali, DSWD head in Maguindanao, reported at a provincial peace and order council (PPOC) meeting in Buluan town last Wednesday that a total of 9,173 “ghost” beneficiaries in the province have so far been purged.
Ali named Sultan Kudarat and Sultan Mastura towns as having the bulk of delisted 4Ps beneficiaries at 2,977 and 1,028, respectively.
Gov. Mangudadatu, who presided over the Wednesday meeting, rallied his municipal and barangay officials to continue the purge, saying that the delisted beneficiaries had already absconded each month at least P12-million cash that “should have been spent for legitimate poverty-alleviating initiatives.”
Newly promoted Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division has assured the military’s support for the purge. (Ali G. Macabalang)