House OKs Magna Carta for the Poor

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 25 2012 08:06 AM | Updated as of Jun 25 2012 05:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a “Magna Carta for the Poor” that would uplift the standard of living and quality of life of the impoverished by providing them with sustained opportunities for growth and development.

House Bill 4484, authored by Reps. Rachel Marguerite del Mar (Cebu City), Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar), Marcelino Teodoro (Marikina City), Rodante Marcoleta (Alagad) and Peter Unabia (Misamis Oriental), seeks to provide for the creation and expansion of employment and livelihood opportunities involving a gradual shift from government subsidy to the eventual empowerment of the poor to meet their minimum basic needs.

Del Mar said the bill defines “poor” under the Social Reform Agenda (Republic Act 8425) as families or individuals whose income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and those who cannot afford in a sustained manner to provide their minimum basic needs of food, health, education, housing or other essential amenities of life.

Del Mar said the qualified poor should be identified by the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) with the participation of the local government units (LGUs) and the basic sectors.

“The measure will provide the poor utmost care, a continuing and sincere concern for the underprivileged, a genuine and serious effort to improve their quality of life,” Del Mar said.

Evardone said social progress can only be attained through social justice, which is the basic tenet the state must employ in its responsibility to its citizens, especially the less fortunate and impoverished.

“The assurance of a higher standard of living and quality of life of every poor Filipino is a duty of the state. This entails the creation of viable opportunities for the less fortunate that are accessible and relevant,” Evardone said.

For his part, Teodoro said the bill hopes to institutionalize recognition of the basic rights of the poor.

Marcoleta said the issue of poverty has now become a critical question of survival in the country.

“Given the present situation, government intervention is the only realistic route to take in order to uplift the plight of the poor while long term measures, strategies and solutions for poverty reduction are being put in place,” he said.

Marcoleta said the government must invest heavily in anti-poverty programs for the economic empowerment of the poor.

Unabia said the measure will “economically emancipate the poor from the bondage of poverty by laying down all the basic and irreducible rights as essential requirements towards poverty alleviation.”

The bill authorizes the government implementing agencies to accredit development partners, such as NGOs and private corporations, and government bodies shall also be authorized to accept donations, aid or grants, in cash or in kind, from duly accredited sources, to meet the demands of the basic rights of the poor.

The bill also mandates that the funding to be used for implementation of the bill should be sourced from the existing anti-poverty programs of different departments and agencies of the government.

Any public official or employee who knowingly or negligently permits the violation of any provision of the proposed act shall be suspended for one year or removed from office depending on the gravity of the offense or fined an equivalent of six months’ salary.