G-Watch conducts discussion on 4Ps listing process

By: Victoria Maglanque 

Last July, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) announced that it will remove 1.3 million Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries as part of its efforts to clean the 4Ps list.[1] This generated renewed discussions about the program and the “worthiness” of some 4Ps beneficiaries to be included in it.

In order to understand the process and challenges on how DSWD identifies and decides who stays as beneficiaries of 4Ps, the Government Watch (G-Watch) held its second Usapang Pananagutan entitled “Understanding the 4Ps List” last 18 August 2022, 1:30 PM via Zoom and streamed live on G-Watch’s Facebook page. Representatives from the DSWD, Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid (SNPP), and Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG) were invited as resource persons for the event which was attended by over 60 participants and viewers from the government, civil society, and 4Ps beneficiaries all over the country.

Ms. Joy Aceron, Convenor-Director of G-Watch and the event’s host, formally opened the program by discussing the issue of inclusion-exclusion errors prevalent and inherent in the targeting systems used in Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs all over the world.

Aceron noted that this inclusion-exclusion issue has development implications—those who are not (but should be) included in social protection programs are not able to enjoy its intended benefits. For example, in the 2019 report of the World Bank, it revealed that 4Ps was able to reduce the stunting rate among the children of the program’s beneficiaries by 9 percent. However, there was an 11 percent increase for the children of poor families not included in the program.

She added that it is also important to understand the process that goes into the listing and identification 4Ps beneficiaries to combat negative perceptions about who are being benefited by the program.

Choosing 4Ps beneficiaries

To shed some light on how 4Ps beneficiaries are chosen in the Philippines, Mr. Alnair Espinosa, OIC-Division Chief of the 4Ps Beneficiary Data Management Division, presented an overview of the registration process and validation of households for the program. Espinosa pointed out that one cannot send an application to the program but instead, DSWD gets its list of beneficiaries from the “Listahanan,” a database of the country’s poor,  generated by the agency. From there, they identify and score households who meet the 4Ps eligibility criteria—those who have 0-18 year old children and/or pregnant women. Households with the lowest scores were prioritized to be included in the program.

[See image #2 for the Listahanan Registration Process Overview from DSWD presentation]

According to Espinosa, the list generated from this process is posted in public areas within the community and undergoes further validation by the DSWD. This involves the conduct of community assemblies of potential beneficiaries, wherein supporting documents are also validated and verified. House-to-house validations are conducted for those who were not able to attend the assembly and for those who live in far-flung areas.

Espinosa added that during the pandemic, the validation of potential household beneficiaries was done using digital technologies such as calls and chats.

[See image #3 for the Validation Phase of Listahanan from DSWD presentation]

Who are the ‘poor’ anyway?

Mr. Amado Suarez, Section Head of DSWD’s Planning and Monitoring Section-Operations Division of the National Household Targeting Office, further expounded on how the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (most commonly known as “Listahanan”) works. In his presentation, Suarez discussed what the Proxy Means Test (PMT) Model—the method used by DSWD to identify who are the poor in the country—is, and the proxy variables used to estimate their income.

The PMT model estimates a household’s per capita income based on variables/characteristics such as durable goods, demographic characteristics, human capital characteristics, and physical housing characteristics. For Listahanan 3, Suarez identified the following proxy variables that were used: socio-economic information (roof materials, outer wall materials, toilet facility, ownership of appliances/durables, etc.) and family roster information (household size, educational attainment, occupation, etc.).

These variables are given weight or score, which are then computed and compared with the official poverty threshold identified by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Suarez shared Listahanan has three poverty status classifications—poor, near poor, and non-poor. The “near poor” or “transient poor” was added for households who scored 10 percent above the poverty threshold but can easily score lower when their circumstances worsen.

[See image #4 on Proxy Means Test from DSWD presentation]

During the open forum, clarificatory questions on 4Ps eligibility criteria and the Listahanan process were also raised. On the question regarding the efforts to address inclusion-exclusion errors and political intervention, Suarez shared that Listahanan has a validation and finalization phase wherein the collected data and the initial list generated undergo community validation. During this phase, the public can lodge their complaints/observations/feedback in the DSWD scheduled complaints desks. These are then investigated by a barangay verification team and forwarded to the local verification committee of the city/municipality who will recommend to the DSWD households that need to be reassessed.

CSOs role in monitoring 4Ps

The second part of the discussion was allotted to civil society organizations involved in the monitoring of 4Ps.

Ms. Jeana Catacio, president of the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid started her presentation by providing a quick introduction of the organization, followed by updates on SNPP’s dialogue with DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo regarding the reported delisting of 1.3 million 4Ps beneficiaries.

Catacio shared that SNPP and DSWD agreed that there needs to be a clear process for re-validation, notification, and appeal for those who are set to be delisted. For their part, SNPP will also conduct their own data collection and validation of program beneficiaries. She further stressed the need to strengthen participation of organizations of 4Ps beneficiaries, as well as LGUs to ensure proper implementation of the program.

[See image #5 on SNPP updates from SNPP presentation]

After Catacio’s presentation, Espinosa clarified that the reported delisting of 1.3 million beneficiaries is not due to any inclusion error, but because they have “graduated” from being poor according to Listahanan 3.

The last presentation came from Ms. Aniceta Baltar, Vice-Chair of the Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government. Entitled “Monitoring the Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer: Gains, Lessons, and Ways Forward,” Baltar shared CCAGG’s experience in implementing two of its monitoring projects on 4Ps—the Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCTP) Watch Project and the i-Pantawid Project.

According to her, these projects showed the importance of CSO and citizen participation in the implementation and monitoring of government social protection programs. The CCTP Watch Project, for example, was a CSO-led monitoring initiative that aimed to ensure the inclusion of the poorest of the poor in the program, and the exclusion of those who are not considered poor in Abra. Moreover, the i-Pantawid Project was an example of how these initiatives empower and capacitate citizens, particularly 4Ps beneficiaries, to exact accountability from the government.

The last open forum tackled further questions on the delisting and validation processes of 4Ps and Listahanan. In her closing remarks, Catacio echoed the calls to expand 4Ps to cover more poor households and ensure inclusion of the poorest of the poor to the program. Baltar added that exit strategy for 4Ps beneficiaries should be strengthened and cited examples of programs implemented by LGUs of Candon and San Juan, La Union for them.

To cap off the program, Aceron noted the importance of ensuring that the grievance redress system is working properly as this is the means by which citizens provide their feedback and complaints not just on inclusion-exclusion, but the general implementation of government social protection programs. She added that there is also a need to make sure that the TPA mechanisms DSWD set in delisting ‘graduates’ of 4Ps and enrolling new beneficiaries are followed. It is important to monitor the exit or support programs of LGUs for these graduates to prevent any rollback on the gains that had they achieved, given the impact of the current socio-economic environment.

Furthermore, Aceron stressed the need to rationalize how the country comes up with the socio-economic profile of its citizens as currently, there are multiple efforts being done both by the national and local agencies such as the Listahanan of DSWD and Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority. Given the flaws of the Listahanan in targeting, she poses the question on the possibility of having an alternative method to better identify beneficiaries of the government’s social protection programs.



Usapang Pananagutan is a series of online fora organized by G-Watch to tackle pressing policy and governance issues, and identify ways and means transparency, participation, and accountability (TPA) can improve governance and development.


[1] https://www.dswd.gov.ph/new-social-welfare-secretary-steadfast-in-cleaning-4ps-list/