Chiz: No vax, no 4Pbenefits proposal illegal

By Connie Calipay

LEGAZPI CITY --- Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero on Monday said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) could be courting legal trouble with its plan to withhold the cash subsidies of millions of recipients under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) unless beneficiaries get themselves vaccinated.


Instead of holding hostage the conditional cash grants meant to help the poorest of the poor, Escudero said in a statement, the government should provide incentives to make the vaccination program more appealing to indigents.


“It’s already an entitlement. It’s a matter of right on their (beneficiaries’) part given there’s a law,” Escudero added in rejecting the DILG proposal to cut 4Ps grantees from getting the cash subsidies if they refuse to get coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) jabs.


“So there might be some legal issues raised if it will be done,” Escudero told an interview with ANC’s Headstart.


4Ps is the centerpiece poverty-reduction program of the national government under Republic Act No. 11310, which institutionalized the human development measure. The law provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor to improve the health, nutrition and education of children from zero to 18 years old.


Latest data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which oversees the program, showed that there are about 4.2 million Filipinos listed as 4Ps beneficiaries.


The veteran senator explained that all coronavirus vaccines, as of the moment, are authorized by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration for administration under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), a classification for unregistered drugs and vaccines in a public health emergency.


“I think providing an incentive is far better than mandating it because these vaccines are still under emergency use authorization (EUA). They have not undergone full clinical trials that would merit a mandate for everyone to be vaccinated,” Escudero stressed.


“By practice in the past or by tradition, hindi mina-mandate ang mga EUA na gamot (it is not mandated for EUA medicines). Kapag dumating na ‘yong panahon na hindi na EUA ang mga ‘yan, (When the time comes that it is not EUA) and full clinical trials had been completed, then it can be mandatory similar to the polio vaccine,” he added.


To prove his point, the governor said he has issued an executive order today that will provide incentives to barangays and municipalities who can reach their vaccination targets before the end of 2021 to ramp up the rollout of the inoculation drive in Sorsogon.


“We will provide incentives to barangays and municipalities that will meet the target before the end of the year. Hopefully, it will work and we’re quite confident it will work if we do it this way,” Escudero said, adding that by year-end, he hopes to vaccinate 80 percent of the population to achieve herd immunity.