Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima denounced calls from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Malacañang to include COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for 4Ps beneficiaries to receive their financial assistance.
De Lima, the principal author of Republic Act No. 11310 or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Institutionalization Act in the Senate, called the Duterte administration’s proposal
‘“reprehensible and unacceptable” ’, explaining that the funds for the 4Ps program should not be used as a bargaining chip to force people to be inoculated against COVID-19.
“Ang 4Ps ay tulong sa ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan. Hindi ito kasangkapan para pilitin ang mga tao na naghahanap ng paglilinaw at impormasyon sa bakuna,” De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said.
“Labag sa batas at hindi makatao ang
“ ‘no vaccine, no subsidy’ ” na niluluto ng gobyernong ito. They cannot just add a conditionality which is not found in the law. And any amendatory law imposing vaccination as a precondition for 4Ps aid availment would be downright oppressive,” she added.
Last Nov. 6, DILG Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya admitted that the government was looking at excluding 4Ps beneficiaries from receiving subsidies under the antipoverty program if they would not get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque echoed this sentiment and suggested that Congress should introduce an amendment on RA 11310 and suggested that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should take a look at DILG’s proposal.
The lady Senator from Bicol reminded the Duterte Administration that the grant of 4Ps benefits was institutionalized to ensure that the beneficiaries would be given financial aid without delay, notwithstanding who is in key government positions.
“We crafted the 4Ps law in close consultation with stakeholders precisely to ensure that beneficiaries will become empowered as rights-holders. Hindi yung ituring silang tagatanggap lang ng ayuda na puwedeng bawiin batay sa kapritso ng mga nasa kapangyarihan o sa panibagong polisiya na walang sapat na batayan,” she said.
“Ang mga benepisyo ng 4Ps ay hindi utang na loob ng mamamayan sa gobyerno. Binibigay yan dahil obligasyon at nararapat,” she emphasized.
De Lima proposed that, instead of officials and politicians tinkering with the landmark law, the government should just focus their efforts to more efficient information campaigns to guide more Filipinos to understand the importance of being inoculated against the coronavirus.
De Lima also questioned how the Duterte administration trained their crosshairs at 4Ps beneficiaries, who are mostly considered to be part of the country’s poorest of the poor, in achieving their quotas for the government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.
“I ask – Is there data showing that many or most of the 4Ps beneficiaries refuse to be vaccinated? Is there proof of high infection rate among them? Have they been duly enlightened about the benefits and safety of vaccines? Do they, especially the poorest of the poor, have access to vaccines?” De Lima asked.
“We are not seeing an intensified information drive to address vaccine hesitancy and an efficient vaccine distribution system. So why resort to arm-twisting to force people to toe the line? Bakit mamamayan na naman ang paparusahan sa kapalpakan ng pandemic response? Tatakutin pa na babawiin ang tanging pantawid nila sa gitna ng pandemya,” she added. (30)