WITH the Magna Carta for the Poor signed into law, the poor are now protected from policy changes that might rob them of government benefits when a new administration takes over.
Christopher Sabal of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), the lead agency tasked to craft the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), said the law ensures the continuity of programs and services for the poor.
“It gives the poor a legal basis to demand for programs geared toward poverty alleviation. Also with this, there will be a consolidation of all the programs of various agencies. It assures continuity and sustainability of all the existing programs, whether or not a new administration adopts them,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 11291, or the Magna Carta of the Poor, into law on April 12, 2019, some 15 years after it was first proposed by its principal author, Rep. Raul del Mar (Cebu City, north district).
“What’s unique in this law is that it also defined the inalienable rights the poor can demand from the government. No other law has specified what basic rights the poor should have full access to,” he added.
RA 11291 directs all government agencies to realize a person’s basic rights.
These are the right to adequate food, right to decent work, right to relevant and quality education, right to adequate housing and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
The law defines the poor as those persons whose income falls below the poverty threshold defined by the National Economic and Development Authority, including those who cannot afford their minimum basic needs of food, health, education and housing.
Funds to implement the law will be sourced from existing appropriations as authorized by the General Appropriations Act of different government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Education and the Department of Health, among others.
The NAPC, along with other agencies, have six months from the approval of the law to finish the IRR.
Racquel Enriquez, the regional program coordinator for operations of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the DSWD 7, hopes the IRR would complement the current flow of the agency’s programs.
In Central Visayas alone, she said, the 4Ps already has around 300,000 beneficiaries identified by the Listahanan, previously known as the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR.)
“Its main objective is to help the poorest of the poor by sending healthy kids age 18 years old and below to school,” she said.
The 4Ps gives various grants like the educational assistance of P300 for elementary students and P500 for high school students per month, the health grant of P500 per family per month and the rice subsidy of P600 per month.
However, she admitted that it is inevitable that some of the beneficiaries allocate these grants to pay for the family’s other expenses, which are not covered by the 4Ps.
“We sometimes receive reports that our students who are members of 4Ps come to school without school supplies. Maybe this Magna Carta of the Poor will, in one way or another, answer the ‘other’ needs of the poor families,” she said.
She hopes that the representatives of the agencies tasked to craft the IRR will keep in mind the welfare and interest of the poor so target beneficiaries will get what is due them under the new law.
Sabal of the NAPC said their agency will spearhead the monitoring of the implementation of the law and the government agencies’ compliance with the IRR.