Escudero: Withholding subsidy to unvaccinated 4Ps beneficiaries spells legal trouble

Published November 8, 2021, 6:38 PM

by Ben Rosario

Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero on Monday, Nov. 8 warned the Department of Interior and Local Government that its plan to withhold the cash subsidies of unvaccinated beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) might cause government unwanted legal trouble.

Senator Francis Escudero

Escudero, who is seeking a return to the Senate in next year’s elections, said the DILG should abandon the idea of penalizing those who have themselves vaccinated from COVID-19.

Instead, the former senator said, government should study the possibility of providing them 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 said in rejecting the DILG proposal to cut 4Ps grantees from getting the cash subsidies if they refuse to get COVID-19 jabs.

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

The 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.

Escudero 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 incentive is far better than mandating it because these vaccines are still under emergency use authorization or 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 (EUA on medicines is not mandated). Kapag dumating na ‘yong panahon na hindi na EUA ang mga ‘yan, (When the time comes that these are no longer under 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 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% of the population to achieve herd immunity.