Duque's leadership, PhilHealth mess to be 'factors' in DOH 2021 budget – Angara

Duque's leadership, PhilHealth mess to be 'factors' in DOH 2021 budget – Angara

MANILA, Philippines — Issues on the leadership of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and the corruption scandal hounding the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will spur tighter scrutiny on the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for 2021, Senator Sonny Angara said.

Angara chairs the Senate finance committee, which is leading the chamber’s discussions on the proposed P4.506 trillion national budget for next year.

“Bandang Abril nanawagan yung mayorya ng mga senador na bumaba na sa pwesto, na magresign na sana si Secretary Duque of the DOH. Pero hindi nya ginawa ito at sinabi nya, he serves at the pleasure of the president. Tama nga naman, it was the President who appointed him,” Angara said in an interview over dzBB on Sunday.

“But nonetheless, marami tayong hinihingi sa kanya in terms of deliverables and accountability. Medyo palagay ko that would be a factor, magiging factor yan sa pag-impluwensya ng mga senador kung ano yung budget na ilalaan sa kanyang department,” he added.

Still, Angara assured that lawmakers will not sacrifice funding for health programs despite their “reservations regarding the leadership.”

“Hindi namin isasakripisyo po yung kabutihan ng ating mga kababayan at yung mga pangangailangan po ng ating mga kababayan dito dahil we’re talking about budget for hospital, budget for medicines at dapat maging propesyonal tayo sa pagtingin diyan,” he said.

Angara also acknowledged the need to increase the budget of the health sector considering that the country continued to reel from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tama yung puntos ng mga nagsasabi rin na dapat itaas especially in time of the pandemic kaya nakita natin sa , naging focus talaga ng dalawang batas ay yung pagtugon sa ating health sector,” he said.

“Kung kinakailangan pwedeng dadgadgan po iyan. Very unpredictable itong COVID,” he added.

Last April, 14 senators urged Duque to step down for alleged “failure of leadership, negligence, (and) lack of foresight” in addressing the pandemic.

More recently, the Senate Committee of the Whole, which embarked on an investigation into the PhilHealth mess, recommended the filing of criminal charges against over the allegedly questionable release of billions of funds under the agency’s emergency cash advance measure.

Duque, who serves as the ex-officio chair of PhilHealth, has since vowed to clear his name and dismissed the committee’s findings as that were made on “mere allegations alone.”

Under the proposed 2021 budget, some P204 billion is allocated for the DOH. Of this amount, over P71 billion is earmarked for PhilHealth.

Angara further said he plans to ask the DOH regarding its low utilization of funds for its Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) as well as its Human Resources for Health (HRH).

“Kapag nag-hearing tayo dito sa sub-committee handling the budget of the DOH, itatanong natin, kamusta na ang hiring ninyo? Napuno na ba yung mga positions? Tapos kasi nag-aadjust yung ina-allot ng Kongreso dyan e,” the senator said.

“Kung hindi mo magastos yung budget mo, hindi ka rin bibigyan ng maraming panggastos dahil hindi mo nga nagagastos yung budget. Usually ganoon ang nagiging proseso,” he added.