MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the constitutionality of the Aquino administration's P21 billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P's).
In a 12-page unanimous en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe dated July 17 but released to the media today, the high court dismissed the petition of former Senate President and Local Government Code author Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Sergio Tadeo and Nelson Alcantara against Exec. Sec. Paquito Ochoa and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Sec. Corazon Soliman.
The program provides conditional cash grants to poor households, particularly those with pregnant women and children aged 0-14.
The high court ruled that petitioners "failed to discharge the burden of proving the invalidity" of the provisions in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2011 which provides for the allocation.
"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 high court said.
Petitioners alleged that the CCT is tantamount to "recentralization of the already devolved functions" under Republic Act (RA) No. 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991), and violative of the provision of the 1987 Constitutional that mandates the state to ensure the autonomy of local governments. They also pointed out that both the Constitution and RA No. 7160 "devolved the responsibility and functions of delivering social welfare, agriculture and health care services."
The SC, however, ruled that "[t]he allocation of a P21 billion budget for an intervention program formulated by the national government units to achieve the common national goal development and social progress can by no means be an encroachment upon the autonomy of local governments."
"The national government is... 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 (local government units) concerned," the high court said.
Citing Ganzon vs. Court of Appeals, the decision pointed out that local autonomy does not imply the conversion of LGUs into "mini states" and that it does not intend to sever "the relation of partnership and interdependence between the central administration and local government units."
Under the CCT, eligible households are selected from priority areas consisting of the poorest provinces classified by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB). These households are granted a health assistance of P500/month, or P6,000/year, and an education assistance of P300/month for 10 months, or a total of P3,000/year, for each child but up to a maximum of three children per family. Each household beneficiary will receive a total package of up to P15,000 annually.
There are, however, conditions set for the cash grant:
1. pregnant women must get prenatal care from the 1st trimester and get post-natal care; child birth must be attended by a skilled/trained professional;
2. parents/guardians must attend family planning sessions/mothers' class, Parent Effectiveness Service, etc.;
3. children 0-5 years of age get regular preventive health checkups and vaccines;
4. children 3-5 years old must attend day care program/pre-school; and
5. children 6-14 years if age are enrolled in schools and attend at least 85% of the time.