LEGAZPI City, Philippines - Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman said a sister of a former finance secretary was behind the P10-billion Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Certificate (PEACe) bond float in 2001.
“I was no longer with Code NGO when the bond float was made. The one who replaced me was Ms. Marissa Camacho and the executive director was Dan Songco and they’re the ones who led and undertook this process,” Soliman told The STAR in an interview here. Code NGO is short for Caucus of Development NGO Networks, the proponent of the bond issuance. Marissa is a sister of Jose Isidro Camacho, who served as finance secretary during the Arroyo administration from 2001 to 2003.
“As I understand, the bond proceeds were donated to the Peace and Equity Foundation, which helped a lot of people,” she said.
“If there will be any investigation, we are willing to face it. But I’d like to make clear, I have nothing to do with the PEACe bonds,” Soliman said.
The PEACe bonds issue is expected to set the tempo of the Commission on Appointments hearing on the confirmation of Soliman.
Moreover, some lawmakers, particularly Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, have moved for a House probe on the controversy upon the resumption of session on Nov. 8.
The DSWD has the biggest increase in the 2011 budget in the Aquino administration. At least P21 billion of its allocation would finance the conditional cash transfer, which is itself a subject of controversy.
“We have put in place at least five layers of controls to insure that the project really benefits the intended beneficiaries,” Soliman said, adding that her department has the capability to implement the project.
“This is not a dole-out because there were 16,000 beneficiaries who were already de-listed from the 900,000 beneficiaries nationwide for not following the conditionalities of the project,” she pointed out.
Soliman visited Libon in Albay and Claveria in Masbate to assess the implementation of the department’s anti-poverty projects.
She said there are now 85,395 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) covering 571 barangays in 59 municipalities in Bicol.
Under the CCT, which covers more than 2.3 million households, a beneficiary-family would be given as much as P1,400 monthly for 10 months subject to certain conditions like requiring the mother to undergo regular check-up at a local public health center.
Purging of list
Meanwhile, Malacañang confirmed that DSWD was purging its list of beneficiaries of the CCT.
“As we speak, the DSWD personnel had started weeding out the existing list but we are (also) going over the list of beneficiaries and families that are to receive in order to make sure that those really in need will be the ones to benefit from the conditional cash transfers,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB.
Valte also said the PEACe bond controversy has not affected the Palace’s trust in Soliman’s integrity and ability to implement the CCT program.
“And if I recall correctly, there are a number of names that were taken out of the list because they were not able to meet the criteria for the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program),” Valte said.
Some lawmakers said the list of the DSWD’s supposed beneficiaries was filled with “ghost families” and that under Soliman, the program’s credibility would be put into question.
“We are confident that Secretary Soliman is very able and capable of implementing the program of the conditional cash transfer,” she said.
“We can see that Secretary Soliman is continuing with her work even if she’s being criticized by some sectors,” Valte said.
“Despite criticisms against Secretary Soliman, we are confident that she is a very professional woman and that she knows it’s part of the job,” Valte said.
Valte said President Aquino “personally handpicked” Soliman and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, who was also being implicated in the PEACe bonds controversy.
Celso Amo, Philippine Star