The Supreme Court gave its imprimatur to the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, the centerpiece poverty alleviation project of President Benigno Aquino III.
The High Court was unanimous in its decision that CCT, which is being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is constitutional.
In a decision written by Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, the tribunal dismissed the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Sergio Tadeo, incumbent President of the Association of Barangay Captains of Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija province, and Nelson Alcantara, incumbent Barangay Captain of Barangay Sta. Monica, Quezon City. The petitioners questioned the legality of the distribution of public funds and the implementation of the CCT which they claimed encroached into the local autonomy of the local government units (LGUs).
The Supreme Court however held that every law has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality, and to justify its nullification, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not a doubtful and argumentative one.
“The allocation of P21 billion budget for an intervention program formulated by the national government itself but implemented in partnership with the local government units to achieve the common national goal development and social progress can by no means be an encroachment upon the autonomy of local government units,” the court said.
Pimentel and the other petitioners said that the program amounts to a “recentralization” of government functions that have already been devolved from the national government to the LGUs. They particularly questioned the release of P21 billion for the program as provided for under RA 10147 or the General Appropriations Act of 2011.
The High Court however said that to yield unreserved power of governance to the LGUs as to preclude any and all involvement by the national government in programs implemented in the local level would be to shift the tide of monopolistic power to the other extreme.
“Indeed, a complete relinquishment of central government powers on the matter providing basic facilities and services cannot be implied as the Local Government Code itself weighs against it. The national government is, thus, not precluded from taking a direct hand in the formulation and implementation of national development programs especially where it is implemented locally in coordination with the LGUs concerned,” it added.
The CCT is a spin-off of the “Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino” project of former president Gloria Arroyo which was first implemented in 2007.
Under the CCT, selected eligible households in poor provinces are given health assistance of P500 a month, or P6,000 year, and educational assistance of P300 a month for 10 months, or a total of P3,000/year, for each child but up to a maximum of three children per family.
For this year, the program was given a budget of P34 billion. The allocation was increased to P39 billion for 2013.
Some critics of the Aquino administration had said that the dole-out program does not truly address poverty since it promotes mendicancy.